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Authot of "Piano Mastery" and "The Art of the Pianist" 




Copyright, 1917, by 
Frederick A. Stokes Company 

Copyright, 1915, 1916, by 
The Musical America 

Copyright, 1915, 1916, by 
The Musical Observes Compant 

Copyright, 1916, by 
Oliver Ditson Compaky 

All rights reserved, including that of translation into 
foreign languages 






Prelude ix 

Percy Grainger . . . Freedom of Thought in Piano 

Study 1 

Josef Hofmann . . . Inspiration in Piano Playing . . 18 

Guiomar Novaes . . . The Gift of Music 30 

John Powell .... "Art the Expression of Life" . 39 

Arthur Shattuck . . The Pianist Should Cultivate 

Many Sides of Art .... 53 

Leopold Godowsky . . The Laws Governing Technic 

and Interpretation 61 

Carl Friedberg 80 

Yolanda Mero . . . The Beautiful in Music .... 88 

Ernest Hutcheson . . Technic and Interpretation . . 100 

Mr. and Mrs. A. K. 

Virgil The Necessity of a Thorough 

Foundation 114 

Edward MacDowell . . Related by Mrs. Edward Mac- 

Dowell 125 

Ruth Deyo The Technic of Interpretation . 134 

Martinus Sieveking . . The Dead-Weight Principle . . 147 

Marguerite Melville- 
Liszniewska .... The Art of the Teacher . . .163 

Mrs. H. H. A. Beach . How a Composer Works . . .179 

Leo Obnstein . , . f Sanity in Music Study .... 188 



Fundamental Principles .... 201 

Elimination of Mechanical 
Etudes 208 

The Value of Learning to Hear 215 

, The Development of a Natural 

Technic 224 

, Mental Problems in Piano Study 233 

, By Some of His Pupils . . . .243 

. Simplified Piano Technic . . . 255 

, Technical Essentials in Piano 

Study 264 

Harold Henry . . . 
Henry Holden Huss 

Richard Buhlig . . 
Mischa Levitzki . . 

Ethel Newcomb . . 
Rafael Joseffy . . 
Kate S. Chittenden 
Augusta Cottlow . . 


Percy Grainger . 

Josef Hofmann . 

Guiomar Novaes 

John Powell 

Leopold Godowsky 

Yolanda Mero 

Ernest Hutcheson 

Mr. and Mrs. A. K. Virgil 

Edward MacDowell . 

Ruth Deyo 


Marguerite Melville-Liszniewska 

Mrs. H. H. A. Beach . 

Leo Ornstein 

Henry Holden Huss » <• 

Mischa Levitski . 

Rafael Joseffy 


















Encouraged by the success attending the 
appearance of Piano Mastery, Volume 1, a 
Second Series of Talks with great pianists and 
teachers has been prepared, at the request of 
the publishers. 

In arranging the present volume, it was 
desired to include not only those who have 
become known to fame, but also those of the 
younger school of pianists who have achieved 
recognition for special gifts. A number of the 
latter have been included in the present vol- 
ume. Lack of space, however, has prevented 
the inclusion of many more rising young 
artists who otherwise would surely have found 
a place in this collection. 

It is earnestly hoped these familiar confer- 
ences with eminent pianists will be helpful and 
inspiring to all lovers of good music. 

Harriette Brower. 
150 West 80th Street, 
New York. 





When Percy Grainger, the Australian 
pianist and composer, arrived in America he 
was not known as a player and but little as a 
composer, although a couple of his works for 
orchestra had been performed during a former 
season. When he gave his first recital, he 
proved to be a pianist of solid attainments and 
also of unusual freshness and charm. His 
playing, his compositions, his personality, went 
straight to the hearts of his hearers; he soon 
found himself the lion of the hour ; success at- 
tended each subsequent appearance. 

It has been aptly said that a musician can 
do little or nothing without enthusiasm. In 
Percy Grainger, the quality of enthusiasm is 


2 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

a potent force in his character and career. Ac- 
cording to his own testimony, he loves to play, 
to compose, to teach, to visit new lands, to 
become familiar with new people. He has the 
youthful buoyancy that welcomes with eager- 
ness each new event and experience. 

To come into personal touch with Percy 
Grainger, to hear him in recital and with or- 
chestra, is to be conscious of an entirely new 
series of experiences. Personally you feel here 
is a particular kind of mentality, one which is 
care-free, untrammeled ; of most gentle spirit, 
yet bold and heaven-storming when bent on 
carrying out a purpose. Perhaps the words 
original and unconventional would apply, 
though no words can aptly describe so unique 
and complex a nature. At one moment he 
speaks of the homely matters of everyday 
living, with the utmost simplicity; at the next 
his remarks bespeak wide knowledge of men 
and affairs, of various countries and peoples. 
Whether he thoughtfully fixes a serious, 
searching gaze on you, or whether his face is 
sunny with smiles, you have the same impres- 
sion of the utter sincerity and single-hearted- 
ness of the man, of the radiant vitality of his 

It is the same when he plays. Sincerity 

Percy Grainger 

shines through everything he does, and the 
buoyancy of a fresh, earnest, healthful spirit 
carries you along with it. There is no flag- 
ging of energy, no moment of languor, all is 
vital and alive. At times his playing is elec- 
trifying. To hear him deliver the opening of 
the Tschaikowsky B minor Concerto is the 
most exciting experience; something that car- 
ries you off your feet like a whirlwind. As a 
pianist remarked to me recently, "A recital by 
Percy Grainger always makes one feel happy, 
inspired and ready to meet everything." 

Although it has been my privilege to confer 
with Mr. Grainger at various times, it is pleas- 
ant to recall the memory of our first conver- 
sation. .We were seated in the sitting room of 
their apartment in the hotel, and Mrs. Grain- 
ger had just poured tea for us. She might 
easily be taken for an elder sister of the young 
artist, instead of his mother. The same sun- 
bright hair, clear blue eyes and fresh ruddy 
color. She is his devoted and constant com- 
panion, accompanying him everywhere. You 
feel they must both have lived much in the 
open, have tramped "o'er moor and fen," have 
been steeped in fresh air and sunshine. 

"I had not expected to come to America at 
this time," began Mr. Grainger; "but we came 

4 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

primarily on account of my mother's frail 
health, which I am happy to say she has re- 
gained in this country. My European tour, 
embracing many concerts, had of course to be 
relinquished on account of the war. We sailed 
at three days' notice, and our intention was to 
stay two or three months at the most. It looks 
now as though we would remain in America 
for a long time. 

"My mother, who is an excellent musician, 
was my first teacher. She began with me when 
I was five, and worked with me constantly, 
two hours daily, for five years. This was in 
Melbourne, Australia, where I was born. We 
left there when I was twelve. At about the 
age of ten I appeared in public and my career 
as pianist began. My teacher at that time 
was Professor Pabst, who subsequently be- 
came connected with the Moscow Conserva- 
tory. When we came to Germany, I went to 
Professor Kwast, at Frankfort, with whom I 
remained six years. Later I studied with Bu- 
soni, whom as pianist and teacher I most 
deeply revere. 

"Together with playing and composing, I 
have found some time for teaching, though this 
work suffered frequent interirmjtion on ac- 
count of my tours as a pianist. ! But I enjoy 

Percy Grainger 

teaching immensely ; it is such individual work ; 
it is like conducting in its effort to bring out 
the meaning of the composer by means of an- 
other medium or mentality. It is showing 
others how to express the idea. This is where 
the true teacher can so greatly assist the stu- 
dent, by being able to show him exactly how 
various effects are to be made, provided, of 
course, the pupil is anxious to learn how. As 
for methods of teaching technic, I do not in 
general care for them; I avoid them. They 
are often only an excuse for laziness, as they 
prevent the pupil from thinking for himself. 
As for technical training, he can get it — after 
the foundation is laid — in the pieces he studies. 
I do not believe in set rules for technic ; if the 
player wants to turn his hand upside down 
and play with the palm uppermost, I dare say 
he could do it, if he worked at it with the same 
zeal that he does with the accepted position. 
In other words, I believe we should inculcate 
principles of technical freedom and individual- 
ity in every player. 

"Pupils often come to study with me from 
the various countries where I have played. I 
have appeared frequently in Scandinavia and 
Holland, and have had numerous pupils from 
both those lands, as well as from England and 

6 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

the Colonies. The Dutch are a very musical 
people. I might say English and American 
pupils are perhaps the most talented, but their 
talent takes the form of doing things easily. 
There is talent that acquires all with hard 
work, and another sort that achieves without 
great labor. 


"You ask if I approve of the metronome. I 
certainly do; and it is amusing sometimes to 
see how different the mechanical idea of 
rhythm is from the true sense and feeling for 
it. We can also use the metronome for work- 
ing up velocity. 

"In regard to the natural feeling for rhythm, 
I don't find people in general so deficient in 
this quality as is so often imagined. The com- 
mon peasant, with no cultivation whatever, has 
an innate sense of rhythm. It will not har- 
monize, I grant you, with the beat of the met- 
ronome, but it is a very forceful and indi- 
vidual thing. He will put a swing and 'go' 
into a popular air which can never be found in 
mechanical rhythm. Mechanical means may 
be necessary in the student's early stages, espe- 
cially if the learner has not a just conception 
of the various note values. 

Percy Grainger 


"About mental processes during actual per- 
formance of the piece in public, it is difficult 
to speak, as so many subtle influences are 
brought to bear. It is to be regretted that the 
custom prevails of playing everything without 
notes. I think many a fine pianist is greatly 
worried over the fear of failure of memory. 
This may affect his playing; it may prevent 
the freedom of utterance he might have, were 
he relieved of the fear of forgetting. All pian- 
ists agree that it is a great mental strain to per- 
form a long and exacting program from mem- 
ory ; it is no wonder that even the greatest art- 
ists occasionally forget. It is no crime to have 
a lapse of memory, though it is annoying, espe- 
cially if one is playing with orchestra. This 
has never happened to me; if it ever should I 
think I would treat the situation quite calmly; 
perhaps I would go and get the notes — I always 
have them with me — or I would look over the 
conductor's shoulder, assure myself of the 
place and then go on. The great thing is to 
have presence of mind in such an emergency. 
If one is not very strong physically, or if a 
great deal depends on the result of one's per- 
formance, the strain of performing an exacting 

8 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

program in public, from memory, is greater. 
Of course it is not artistic to play badly, so 
it were much better to have the notes in front 
of one than to produce poor results. Most 
artists would play more naturally with notes 
before them — if accustomed to use them. Fear 
often destroys the perfection of what might be 
a fine rendition. The comfortable, the ideal 
way, I suppose would be to really know the 
piece from memory and yet play from the 


"Art is the expression of natural impulses; 
therefore I do not believe in being fettered by 
many rules. Rather I believe in being as nat- 
ural and free as possible in the working out of 
artistic ideals at the instrument. For instance, 
I do not believe in people striving to acquire 
a certain pianistic style they are not fitted for. 
If the hand is small and the physique delicate, 
why not keep the dynamic scale small? Why 
not play with delicacy and fineness, instead of 
striving to become heroic? Pachman, for in- 
stance, is a pianist whose limitations are to a 
certain extent responsible for his greatness. It 
is said he never makes a real fortissimo; but 

Percy Grainger 9 

we admire his delicacy and finesse and do not 
wish him to strive for great power. 


"The technic of an art is, to a certain extent, 
mainly habit. I do believe in habit. We get 
used to measuring skips, for instance, with eye 
and hand, until we can locate them automatic- 
ally, from habit. It is the same with all sorts 
of technical figures; we acquire the habit of 
doing them through constant repetition. 
When the mechanical part has become auto- 
matic, we can give the mind fully to the emo- 
tion to be expressed. For I do not believe you 
can feel the structure of the piece and its emo- 
tional message at the same time. For my own 
part I am not much concerned about how the 
piece is put together ; I think of it as music, as 
the expression of natural impulses, desires or 


"When teaching piano, I make a great 
study of pedal effects with my pupils. Many 
fine effects of diminuendo can be made with 
quick half pedaling. The subject of pedaling 
is none too well understood; most wonderful 
tonal colors can be produced by an artistic 

10 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

use of the pedals." Mr. Grainger seated him- 
self at the piano and played a brilliant passage 
ending with sustained chords, for which latter 
he used shifting, vibrating pedals with charm- 
ing effect. 

"Another point I make is the bringing out 
of a melody note above the other tones of a 
chord; that is to say, making one tone in a 
chord louder than the rest. This is not new, of 
course, but students forget to study it. The 
ability to bring out a desired tone comes with 
practice, for it is not easy to accomplish at 
first. Most learners think they must play such 
chords forte, whereas the best way to study 
them is piano. 


"Many of the modern French compositions 
are very useful in developing sensitiveness of fin- 
ger, and I make much use of them with pupils. 
From Debussy Reflets dans Veau, and Pa- 
godes may be chosen; also the Ondine and 
other pieces by Ravel. From Cyril Scott take 
the Lotus Land and Sphinx, also the set of 
five Poems; all are valuable as touch develop- 
ers. I find little attention is given to the study 
of pianissimo effects; these pieces give one 
much opportunity to acquire delicacy. 

Percy Grainger 11 


"Do not imagine I want less study because I 
seek to avoid many formalities. Study is the 
only thing I care about in life, but I love the 
study of nature as well as art. No one can 
study too much; but let us have the heart of 
everything, not only the formal side. I like 
to study the language of a people, but rather 
the phonetics than the grammar. 

"To me art is joy. The more intensely stu- 
dious the artist, the more joyous will he be 
in his art. To my mind everything connected 
with art and the study of art, should be easy, 
natural, individualistic, untrammeled and in- 
stinctive. Above all instinctive; 'Von innen 

"In art there is no escaping from one's true 
inner nature; neither for beginner nor for fin- 
ished artist. It seems to me the teacher should 
not strive to teach any one pupil the entire 
gamut of pianistic technic, but concentrate 
rather upon those phases of it to which the 
pupil seems physically addicted, or emotionally 

"One hour spent in practicing a phase of 
music for which a pupil has a natural physical 
or imaginative ability, will generally prove 

12 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

more fruitful than many hours devoted to 
problems towards which the pupil is less in- 
stinctively impelled. 

"Let each student and subsequently each 
artist choose those compositions that contain in 
abundance the particular pianistic styles for 
which his emotional and physical nature equips 
him. This course will make for individuality 
in the artist's repertory, and tend to banish 
samishness from concert programs. 


"Beginners at the piano need to learn so 
many things at the start. There is the train- 
ing of eye, ear and hand, the learning of notes 
and note-values, together with all sorts of 
movements. If students could have thorough 
drill in these things before they come to us, 
how much greater progress they would make 
in the real business of playing the piano! 

"As to instructing beginners, I find natu- 
rally no necessity for doing this on the piano ; 
but I have taught beginners on the mandolin 
and guitar. I am fond of the combination of 
these instruments with strings and have writ- 
ten a number of compositions for a small body 
of string players. I play the guitar myself, 
and so does my mother; I have a special 

Percy Grainger 13 

method of performing on it. I prefer to take 
an out-and-out beginner on this instrument 
than to take some one who has played it a good 
deal, and be obliged to show him all over 


Mr. Grainger had much to say about com- 
posing for a small orchestra. 

"Very interesting to a modern composer," 
he remarked, "are the several newly invented 
or perfected instruments, such as the Mustel 
organ, the various Saxophones, the Haeckel- 
phone; also the percussion instruments, such 
as the Marimbaphone, Bass-xylophones, Res- 
onaphone, and the like. The tone of most of 
these new instruments is fairly delicate and 
sensitive, and would be swamped or lost in a 
modern mammoth orchestra. My own feeling 
is that it is in combinations of chamber music 
that these smaller, subtle, but highly charac- 
teristic instruments come into their own, and 
are heard at their full value. The latter-day 
tendencies are not toward noise and tonal ef- 
fects on a gigantic scale, but rather toward 
delicacy, sensitiveness and, above all, trans- 
parency of color. Personally, I enjoy best of 
all writing for combinations of — let us say — 

14 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

six to twenty instruments, such as four strings, 
celesta, English horn, two guitars and resona- 
phone. Or such a combination as this: five 
men's voices, Mustel organ, four woodwind in- 
struments and six strings." 

Some of Mr. Grainger's compositions 
already published embody the folk tunes of 
various countries in new and original forms. 
Those for piano include Shepherd's Hey, 
Green Bushes, Country Tune, and Colonial 
Song; these are also scored for full orchestra. 
They can be obtained for a smaller company 
of players, even as small a number as twelve. 

Percy Grainger has been called by Runci- 
man "the one cheerful, sunny composer liv- 
ing." Finck says of his music: "One really 
feels tempted to say that these are the best 
things that have ever come to us from Eng- 
land." Other critics have written much in 
praise of his compositions. "He catches us 
up and whirls us away in the spirit of the coun- 
try dance." "His music sounds like the dawn- 
ing of a new era." "Such genuine humor and 
wit, such enthusiasm, such virility and masterly 
musicianship as Mr. Grainger shows are met 
with only on the rarest occasions in a musi- 
cian of any country. Indeed it is doubtful if 

Percy Grainger 15 

all these qualities are combined in any other 
composer now before the public." 

These are words of high praise, from well- 
known authorities. We should rejoice to find 
a composer who can write in a healthy, sane 
and buoyant spirit. We do not want to be 
forever in the depths, racked by violent un- 
healthy emotions ; we want to be on the heights, 
in the sunlight, whenever we can reach such 

Mr. Grainger's compositions are popular in 
England and on the Continent, and bid fair to 
become equally so in America. Like most 
true artists, he feels strongly that "wars or 
rumors of wars" should not be allowed to up- 
set the internationality of art. The young 
Australian is deeply touched by the true spirit 
of artistic neutrality he has met on all sides in 
New York, amongst musicians of every na- 
tionality, and he points with pride to the fact 
that some of the best criticisms he has received 
in America have appeared in the German 
newspapers. He is no less proud of the high 
spirit of neutrality which permeates English 
musical life at present. Not long ago two 
large festivals of German music, one devoted 
to Brahms, the other to Wagner, were held 
there. Another "Festival of German Music" 

16 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

is shortly to be held in London, side by side 
with a "Festival of British Music," in which 
the works of Cyril Scott, Frederick Delius, 
Stanford, Elgar and Percy Grainger figure 
largely. At present Frederick Delius, the 
great Anglo-German composer, and Percy 
Grainger run one another very close in popu- 
larity. Mr. Grainger is boundlessly enthusi- 
astic over his "rival," who, in his judgment, is 
the greatest of living composers. 

"It is inspiring to live in an age in which 
such noble and altruistic interpretations of the 
universality of art are displayed," said Mr. 
Grainger. "In Frederick Delius," continued 
his Australian admirer, "German and British 
qualities are most fortunately blended and 
have contrived to produce a unique genius, 
whose work recalls at once such creative types 
as Bach, Walt Whitman, Keats and Grieg." 

Mr. Grainger is gifted as a linguist and is 
enthusiastic over the various tongues and dia- 
lects of the different countries through which 
he has traveled. He speaks German, Dan- 
ish, Dutch and Norwegian, and has some 
knowledge of Icelandic, Jutish, Frisian, Faro- 
ese and the peasant dialects of Norway. This 
acquaintance with the languages has greatly 
assisted in the study of folk melodies. He is 

Percy Grainger 17 

considered one of the greatest authorities on 
folk songs and primitive music, having himself 
collected and carefully noted down nearly five 
hundred examples of traditional singing and 
playing in Great Britain, Scandinavia, New 
Zealand and the South Seas. 

As a pianist Percy Grainger plays with 
clarity of touch, variety of tone color and 
splendid sweep and virility. He is able to set 
the composition before the listener in well-bal- 
anced proportions, and direct simplicity of 
thought. One feels the composer of the work 
under consideration would wish it played in 
just this way, with just this directness of ut- 
terance. At the same time the pianist lends 
to everything he touches the glow of his own 
buoyancy and enthusiasm, by means of which 
well-known themes take on a new meaning and 
make a new and unusual appeal. 




Americans naturally feel a peculiar inter- 
est in the art of Josef Hofmann, for they have 
seen it grow and develop from the wonder child 
of ten to the matured artist, who stands to-day 
on the mountain height of his profession. There 
must be thousands in this country who remem- 
ber the marvelous exhibition of piano playing 
offered by the little Polish boy during the sea- 
son of 1888, when, as a wonderful child prod- 
igy, he was brought over to make his first tour 
of America. 

He was such a little fellow, with such a seri- 
ous face, as he came upon the stage in his sim- 
ple sailor suit and climbed on to the piano 
stool. But we soon forgot all else, after the 
orchestral prelude, when he began to play. 
Ah, then it was no longer a tiny child, in a 
blue sailor suit; it was a man, who grappled 
with those handfuls of notes and flung them 
out into space with such sureness and freedom, 


Josef Hofmann 19 

That powerful, singing tone did not belong to 
the puny strength of a child of ten. Neither 
did that sympathetic reading of the score, that 
understanding of the meaning of the music. 
No human power could have taught him these 
things ; it was inborn genius. 

No wonder people went wild with excite- 
ment and split their gloves in vociferous ap- 
plause. It was almost beyond belief. The 
climax came when this mite of a boy began 
to improvise on a theme handed up to him by 
chance from any one in the audience. Then 
his powers were tested and not found wanting. 

People shook their heads and said such pre- 
cocity could not mature; that the lad would 
probably never be heard from in the future. 
In this they were vastly mistaken. The child 
prodigy retired from the footlights and spent 
seven or eight years in close study. Then he 
emerged into the light and returned to us a 
full-fledged artist. But that was not the end. 
Josef Hofmann was never content to stand 
still; it was only a milestone in his upward 
flight. He has always been at work, always 
progressing, never content with present attain- 
ments. Each year we have watched his growth, 
have felt his art become finer, more expressive, 
more subtle, until at the present moment it 

20 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

seems wellnigh perfect. Yet the artist does 
not take this view. 

"There are still difficulties I have not yet 
overcome, limitations beyond which I have not 
passed. I have not yet all the power I desire, 
nor always the ability to express every shade 
of emotion I wish to portray. There is still 
much I hope to accomplish in the expression 
of emotion and inspiration in piano playing." 
Admissions like these, coming from the lips 
of such a musician, are further proofs of the 
humility of the truly great artist. 

Mr. Hofmann, in spite of pressing concert 
engagements, permitted me to come and talk 
over with him some of the phases of pianistic 

I found him in his apartments overlooking 
the park. A fluffy white poodle took great 
interest in the entrance of the visitor, but was 
cautioned by his master, who held up a warn- 
ing fore finger, "not to be a bore." 

"You will meet my family by degrees," re- 
marked the artist, smiling: "first my dog, then 
Mrs. Hofmann (who entered later) and my lit- 
tle daughter, Josepha." This little girl of 
nine has marked ability along artistic lines, and 
is already doing creditable sketches in water 

Josef Hofmann 21 

We spoke first of the little Polish boy, who 
aroused such a furore in America at the age 
of ten. 

"That was in '88," said Mr. Hofmann. "At 
that time I played the Mendelssohn Concerto 
in G minor, also his Capriccio, and the Bee- 
thoven Concertos in C major and C minor." 

"Do not forget the improvising, which 
seemed so marvelous to us then." 

"Oh, yes, I improvised, of course." 

"Surely one who has such a perfect technic, 
who has solved every technical problem, can 
accomplish all one desires in interpretation." 

"It goes without saying that an artist in 
these days must have a great technic: that is 
where piano playing really begins. But I do 
not consider that I yet possess a perfect tech- 
nic, for I still have limitations. The artist, 
however, must allow the public to guess his 
limitations. There is as much art in choos- 
ing the right kind of compositions as 
in playing them. There are still some 
pieces I would not attempt; some that re- 
quire more power, for instance, than I now 
have. The player should never urge his force 
to the limit ; he must always keep something in 
reserve. If the tone is at its utmost capacity 
of production, it will sound hard; there must 

22 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

always be some reserve power back of it. Ru- 
binstein was capable of immense power, for he 
had a very heavy hand and arm. His fifth fin- 
ger was as thick as my thumb — think of it! 
Then his fingers were square on the ends, with 
cushions on them. It was a wonderful hand, 
and very large besides. Yet with all his power, 
one felt he had more in reserve. 


"I do no technical work outside of the com- 
position, for the reason that I find plenty of 
technic to work on in the piece itself. Every 
passage that presents the least difficulty is 
studied in minute detail, with well raised fin- 
gers, clear distinct touch, always taking care 
to put the finger down exactly in the middle 
of each key, not on the side of it. The piece 
is studied with every kind of touch, tempo and 
dynamics — studied till the player has com- 
mand of every possible variety of tone, touch 
and degree of power or delicacy. When all 
these things are under control, he is ready to 
interpret the composition. 


"I repeat that only when the player has 
control of the means, has he the true freedom 

Josef Hofmann 23 

to clearly and adequately express himself. 
Then his interpretation takes on the nature of 
an improvisation. 

"There are many circumstances which influ- 
ence the artist's interpretation. His prevail- 
ing mood at the moment, the piano, the mental 
quality of the audience, the acoustics of the 
space he has to fill, and so on. I play very dif- 
ferently in the concert hall from what I do at 
home in my study. When before an audience, 
I must take into account all the things I have 
mentioned. If I am to fill Carnegie Hall, my 
scale of dynamics is quite different from the 
one I use in a smaller space. There must like- 
wise be corresponding differences in touch and 
tone color. 

"You speak of the spiritual side of piano 
interpretation. To bring out that side surely 
depends on the absolute freedom and untram- 
meled condition, both mentally and physically, 
which one is in. 

"I can affirm, therefore, that I do not know, 
beforehand, how I shall be able to play the 
piece, until I have tried the space, the piano, 
the hearers and myself. I may be able to con- 
trol every point, and to express myself with 
perfect freedom, and then I may not. There 
are times when it seems I have nothing to say. 

24 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

The notes of the piece are there, an inanimate 
skeleton. It is like a dinner table, daintily- 
laid out, where the viands are wanting, and the 
listener goes away unfed. 


"As I see it, there are two kinds of pianists. 
The more numerous sort may master every 
note, finger mark and sign of expression with 
commendable exactness ; everything is thought 
out in the privacy of the studio. When they 
come before an audience they merely transfer 
this conception to the larger space, playing 
just as they would at home. They always try 
to play the piece in precisely the same way. 

"I cannot believe this is the only way. I 
cannot do it myself and my master Rubinstein 
never did so. He never played a piece just as 
he had played it before ; I cannot do this either. 

"The other kind of artist, and their number 
is small, I admit, never play the piece twice in 
just the same way. They strive for the control 
which gives absolute freedom of expression. 
They realize how many forces react on the art- 
ist upon the platform — even the temperature! 
If I am playing the Appassionata Sonata on 
a sultry day, the passion may be somewhat 

Josef Hofmann 25 

milder than it would be if the temperature were 
more bracing. 

"It is of course necessary to plan a model 
in the studio, though the performance in pub- 
lic may differ from it, as it admits certain ele- 
ments of improvisation. This results in a 
higher artistic mastery, because it is — within 
certain limits — free, spontaneous, and per- 

"This freedom of interpretation presupposes 
the artist's mind and taste to be so well trained 
as to warrant him in relying on the inspiration 
of the moment. But back of it all must be his 
logical plan of action. I think I can say I 
belong to this small class of pianists who yield 
to the inspiration of the moment and improvise 
the composition at the piano. 


"If one is to play with freedom and inspir- 
ation, one must strike out boldly and not hold 
back in timidity or bashfulness; these are bad 
faults. We sometimes see people in society 
who fear to make a fauoc pas here or there ; so 
they hold back stiffly and bore everybody, be- 
sides being very uncomfortable themselves. 
The player must cast fear to the winds and 
risk everything. He should be an absolutely 

26 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

free and open avenue for the expression of 
the emotional and spiritual meaning of the 
music. When one can thus improvise the com- 
position, it seems that the piano no longer 
sounds like a piano. It has been said that when 
Rubinstein played,, the instrument did not 
sound like a piano. J As you have heard Rubin- 
stein, you remember how different his piano 
sounded from the ordinary kind; like another 
sort of medium, or like a whole orchestra — in 
spite of the many wrong notes. .When playing 
himself he often struck wrong notes, yet in 
teaching he was very exact; he could not en- 
dure wrong notes or slips of any kind, in his 
pupils or in himself. But in public he took the 
risk! He was not troubled about the false 
notes if only he could present the emotional 
content of the music in the most compelling 
light. | 

"I heard Rubinstein play in Berlin, at his 
last concert there. Moszkowski sat beside me. 
Rubinstein, in playing his Valse Caprice, 
missed all but one of those treacherous high 
skips. When he hit that solitary one correctly, 
Moszkowski turned to me and whispered, 
humorously, 'We must excuse him, for he can't 
see any more.' " 

Josef Hofmann 27 


"I notice, Mr. Hofmann, that you have a 
metronome standing here. In one of your an- 
swers to questions in the Ladies' Home Jour- 
nal, I believe you disapproved of it." 

"That was a misunderstanding. We can- 
not do without the metronome. It is the police- 
man ! I may have said not to play with metro- 
nome, as a true sense of rhythm cannot be ac- 
quired in this way. But I never said not to 
use one. On the contrary the metronome is 
a necessity, for it gives us the correct idea of 
tempo; in that capacity I use it frequently. 


"What do I think of modern music? Some 
of it is only contortion; Stravinsky and 
Schoenberg, for instance. Yet it is much 
sought after as a fad, nowadays, from curios- 
ity, if for no other reason. If one falls in a 
fit on the street people run together, curious to 
see what has happened. What do they see? 
Contortion! The Stravinsky ballet, recently 
given at the Century, was fascinating in color, 
movement and ensemble, but the music was 
again — contortion. 

28 Piano Mastery — Second Series 


"Absolute control of all means in the per- 
former's power does not belong alone to the 
pianist, it may belong to the flute player, the 
violinist or 'cellist. It should always be pos- 
sessed by the player who would improvise his 

"The piano is the universal instrument, the 
one independent medium. All other instru- 
ments either require or are improved by an 
accompaniment, even the voice. But the pian- 
ist stands alone, and controls everything. He 
can express every emotion, even despotism, by 
means of his instrument. We often say the 
piano expresses all these, when we really know 
it can say nothing at all without the pianist. 
If he have many emotions and the ability to 
express them, the piano will do his bidding." 


"We regret you elect to give but one recital 
in New York during the season." 

"But I play a number of times with orches- 
tra here. You have good ones in America. 

"In assisting the artist the orchestra should 
take the part of an accompaniment, and 
although the conductor directs it, he should, 

Josef Hofmann 29 

for the time being, efface himself. This the 
conductor of the New York Symphony is able 
to do. After we have played together five 
or six times, we come to be in perfect accord. 
A soloist ought to play with his orchestra in 
smaller places before appearing in the large 
cities if he wishes his ensemble to be at its best. 

"Yes, I am a co-worker with Godowsky on 
the Progressive Series of Piano Lessons. It 
is slow and tedious business, this editing of the 
various pieces required. Every finger mark 
and sign of phrasing must be absolutely cor- 
rect. It takes me several hours to edit a short 
piece. It is work fit for a schoolmaster. 

"After my touring season, we shall spend 
the summer in Maine. Ah, how beautiful it 
is there, by the sea! I love it. Of course 
wherever I am, my time is fully taken up. In 
summer I exchange the rush of travel, the 
catching of trains, for the repose and quiet 
of a vacation by the sea. That is when I work 
on my programs and prepare the various 
concertos I am to play the following season." 




The most dazzling meteor that shot across 
the pianistic sky during the past season — 1916 
— was the young Brazilian pianist, Guiomar 
Novaes. We were quite unprepared for such 
an apparition; we had heard nothing of her; 
she came unheralded. In a season filled to the 
brim with the greatest piano playing the world 
can produce, she came — and conquered — by 
sheer force of genius. 

The marvel of it! Such a talent in a family 
where neither the parents nor any of the eigh- 
teen other children showed any special musi- 
cal inclination. Hers is surely a gift straight 
out of Heaven! 

Many of us are familiar with the story of 
how this slip of a girl developed her gifts, first 
in her own country and then in Paris, where 
she took first place over 388 contestants, in 
the entrance examinations of the Conserva- 
toire. At that examination her performance 


Guiomar Novaes 31 

of Schumann's Carneval was so unusual in 
the mastery of technic, so poetic in interpreta- 
tion as to greatly impress the jury, composed 
of Debussy, Moszkowski, Faure and other 
distinguished musicians. 

The young girl was about fourteen when 
she arrived in Paris, and began her studies 
with Professor Philipp, at the Conservatoire. 
At the end of the second year she received the 
first honor, a Premier Prix du Conservatoire. 
After this came many engagements to play 
in Paris, London, Switzerland, Germany, and 
Italy, which she filled with ever-increasing suc- 

Then came two years at home in Brazil, 
Which she spent resting, working, thinking, 
growing and ripening, but playing little in 
public. Late in the year 1915 she and her 
mother came to New York, escorted by the 
Brazilian Ambassador from Washington. 

"I think it is time for her to begin her 
American career," he remarked, after her first 
New York recital; "and," he added signifi- 
cantly, "I believe she is ready for it," 

The young artist indeed proved herself 
ready. Her first long and difficult program 
revealed sentiment, power, passion and ripe 
musicianship. Her success was immediate and 

32 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

complete. These are, briefly, the mere facts. 
But who can put into words the thrill, the spell 
of such playing as hers ? In London, when she 
played there, it was chronicled: "She is one 
of the world's greatest pianists." After her 
first American appearance, Mr. Finck, in the 
Evening Post, said of her: "She is the great- 
est woman pianist now before the public, and 
even some of the men had better look to their 
laurels." Later, after her fourth triumphant 
recital in the metropolis, the same critic wrote : 
"Her tone has the limpid purity and beauty 
that the world adores in voices like Patti's or 
Sembrich's or Caruso's ; in runs these tones are 
like strings of perfect pearls. Miss Novaes 
seems to get her inspiration direct from 
heaven. One has a feeling, when she plays 
Beethoven, as if she were in long-distance tele- 
pathic communication with him — as if he in- 
deed were at the piano. And if her piece is by 
Chopin, Schumann or some other master, it is 
they who apparently are personally guiding 
her. This is no hyperbole ; it is an impression, 
which makes this girl one of the seven wonders 
of the musical world." 

What are the attributes in the performance 
of this "superpianist" as she has been called; 
what are the things that compel admiration, 

Guiomar Novaes 33 

that enthrall alike the unskilled music lover, 
the trained musician and the exacting critic? 
If we can discover them, analyze and reduce 
them to tangible terms, we may be able to ap- 
ply the principles to the profit of our own 

On the technical side we can study the play- 
er's manner of tone production. Tone is the 
medium through which the musical idea is set 
forth. With Miss Novaes the tone seems to 
be produced by controlled relaxation. Much 
is said and written about relaxation in these 
days. The kind this girl possesses is plastic 
and beautifully controlled. With the most 
graceful movements of arm she forms and 
molds the tone to such quality as she desires. 
She plays with controlled weight, but it is 
weight that is alive,, vital, not lumbering and 
"dead." With this condition of poise in arm, 
wrist and hand, every tone she produces, from 
feathery pianissimo to the utmost fortissimo, 
has a searching, vibrant quality, a quality that 
makes an instant appeal to the listener. Even 
a single tone has the poignant quality that 
makes a thrilling effect. She produces these 
tones without apparent effort; yet they carry 
a message quite apart from the studied phrases 
of other pianists. 

34 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

Technic in her case is an "art in itself." No 
problem seems too difficult; all are flawlessly- 
mastered. Imagine strings of pearls, large 
and small ; in each string the pearls are exactly 
the same size, round and perfect; such are her 
scales. Her glissandi ripple up and down the 
keyboard with a perfect beauty and smooth- 
ness that the hand of no other pianist within 
memory has surpassed. Her chords are full 
and rich, her trills like the song of birds. The 
listener sits aghast at such absolute mastery, 
and marvels where this girl has acquired such 
consummate technic. He marvels still more 
at the interpretative genius, which seizes upon 
the inherent meaning of the composition, finds 
its poetic, emotional message, and is able to 
present it with such convincing, overwhelming 
conviction and appeal. 

I have tried, in few words, to voice some of 
the causes of Miss Novaes' mastery, some of 
the means by which she conquers the keyboard, 
the music and our hearts, because I know she 
could not do so herself. She could no more 
explain how she does these things than a flower 
bud can describe how it becomes a perfect rose. 
She would only say: "Your praise may apply 
to a great pianist, but I am not a great artist." 
Such is her modesty and self-effacement. 

Guiomar Novaes 35 

We must let Guiomar Novaes say some- 
thing for herself, however; she will do so in a 
pretty mixture of English and French, with 
a few sentences of Spanish thrown in here and 
there. When she talks, one hardly knows 
which to admire most, the pleasant voice and 
smile, the dimples that play hide and seek in 
her cheeks, or the artless sincerity of her 

"I began to play piano when I was four, by 
listening and by picking out everything on the 
piano by ear; I taught myself by the ear. 
Sometimes it seems I learned to play before I 
learned to speak; it is true I knew my notes 
before I had mastered the letters of the 

"When I was six my studies really began. 
I was placed with a most excellent teacher, 
Professor Chiafarelle, an Italian musician. 
With him I learned a great deal, and began 
to play in Sao Paulo, my home city, when I 
was ten. 

"He was my teacher seven years. Then our 
Government sent me to Paris, where I was ad- 
mitted to the Conservatoire, and became a 
pupil of Isador Philipp for nearly four years. 

36 Piano Mastery — Second Series 


"I practice about three to four hours every 
day. I no longer practice the technic by it- 
self, outside of pieces, for there is so much 
technic in the pieces themselves, that I work 
on that. But when I was a child I had to 
work on technic and on all kinds of exercises 
most industriously. I haven't time to do so 
now, for there is so much music to learn. 

"Yes, I play Bach — much Bach, when I 
have time, but not every day." 

"Some artists save their strength by playing 
with only half force during practice. Do you 
follow this course?" she was asked. 

"No, in practice I use full power; that is, I 
try to make the piece sound as I want it to 
sound. If I should play with a weak touch, 
I would not get the sonore, how do you call 
it? Ah, yes, the sound. I would not get the 
sound as I want it. 


"I really do not know how I memorize; it 
all comes to me very quickly — the music. I 
find it very amusing to learn by heart. You 
think I should not call it amusing — you think 
I should say interesting? Well, then, I think 

Guiomar Novaes 37 

it is very interesting to learn from memory. I 
can do it away from the piano, by thinking 
how the music looks when it is printed. I 
sometimes do this on the trains, when I am 
traveling. When I was in Switzerland, I 
found I had to play the Beethoven G major 
Concerto, in Paris, in a short time. So I 
learned it all by heart in fourteen days. It is 
true I had played at it some at home in Brazil ; 
but now I really had to learn it. The Bach 
Organ Prelude and Fugue, transcribed by 
Moor, which I played at my third New York 
recital, I learned in four days. When I did 
so I was feeling very fresh and well rested, and 
equal to the task. I might not always feel able 
to do it so quickly." 


"Do you really enjoy playing in public?" 
she was asked. 

"Yes, I do like it. At a recital, I soon be- 
come so absorbed in what I am doing that I 
quite forget the audience; it is as if the audi- 
ence was not there; it does not exist for me. 
I cannot say I always feel the same or play 
the same. The piano may seem different, the 
hall, the audience, too, and my mood." 

38 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

"That is what Josef Hofmann says also," I 

"Ah, what a great, big artist Hofmann is !" 
The dark eyes glowed with inward fire and 
the dimples deepened. "I think he is so won- 
derful. Schelling is a big artist, too. He 
played in my country, Brazillo, and had a 
great success there." 


"Do you care for modern music — Schoen- 
berg, Stravinsky, Korngold or Ornstein?" she 
was asked. The mention of these names awoke 
no answering gleam in the calm, sweet face. 

"I do not know the music you speak of," 
she said. "I shall play something of Bach ar- 
ranged by Emanuel Moor. Moor has written 
much ; some fine things for 'cello, which Casals 

"You think I make good progress with Eng- 
lish? I have only studied it five months, just 
since I came to New York. I am really sur- 
prised at myself to-day, that I have had the 
courage to speak to you in your own language. 
Usually I speak French, as, naturally I know 
that much better than English." 



An American pianist and composer of indi- 
viduality and distinction is John Powell, of 
whom we have already heard a great deal, and 
will surely hear much more as we become 
familiar with his compositions and sit more 
frequently under the spell of his beautiful 
piano playing. 

For the past two seasons Mr. Powell has 
been heard in recitals throughout the country. 
Those given in New York have been on a high 
plane of excellence. In fact, each program 
performed revealed an increasing power and 
eloquence of expression, more subtlety of in- 
sight, more command of the resources of the 
instrument and himself, more consummate 
skill in embodying the mental and spiritual 
message of the music. 

Deeply impressed with these qualities in his 
playing, I found opportunity to question Mr. 
Powell about some particular aspects of pian- 


40 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

ism, which we were able to discuss at some 

We first took up the technical side, as I 
asked where he had acquired his technic. 
"**'I studied with F. C. Hahr at home, before 
going to Vienna. There I spent several years 
with Leschetizky and worked terribly hard. 
This marvelous old man was a wonderful 
teacher. Of course the student had to under- 
stand him, — had to have the intelligence to 
grasp his ideas. He did not care to be thought 
to have a special method of technic, nor did he 
often talk to the pupil on the technical side of 
piano playing, unless he saw the need for it. 
Then he could be most explicit as to hand posi- 
tion and other fundamental points. Even 
with pupils who had been with him some time, 
if he noted any lapse or ineffectiveness, he 
would come right down to first principles." 

"I am well aware Leschetizky asserts he has 
no method outside of loose wrists and firm nail- 
joints," I remarked. 

"Back of these two ideas," answered Mr. 
Powell, "lies the foundation principle — con- 
centration of will; if you have this concentra- 
tion you can accomplish what you desire. This 
thought was the mainspring of Leschetizky's 

(0 JU- J 0^r / U<siS^~Jb-~^frvJL \^&-^rr*<jk^nc1fr } jLS' 

John Powell 41 

teaching. If the learner grasped the idea, he 
could get a great deal from the master. 

"For instance, the master would explain a 
principle to you, and if you saw its value you 
could work it out; the manner of the working 
out might vary, but the idea remained the 
same. He might take the subject of skips, let 
us say. You wish to play a tenth or a twelfth. 
He would tell you to place your thumb on C, 
then make an arm movement which shall de- 
scribe a curve, up to the note you wish to 
reach, touching but not depressing it. A few 
slow movements of this kind will teach you 
the arm sensations you have in reaching for 
the note, and also how to measure the distance 
between the two. When this is accomplished 
you can play the skip with quickness and ac- 
curacy. So with large chords; the fingers are 
prepared for them; the portrait of them — so 
to say — is made in the air, before the chords 
are actually played. -~ 


"There is a principle I have been working 
on for several years; it is one I consider very 
important, especially when applied to canta- 
bile, or melody playing. It is the pressure 
necessary to produce a beautiful, singing tone. 

42 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

We are told that as soon as the sound is pro- 
duced on the piano, the tone begins to die. 
Some thinkers advocate letting up all weight 
on the key as soon as it has been sounded. 
This would virtually necessitate a new attack 
for each note. I find this idea has an injurious 
effect on the tone quality. A far better way 
is to transfer the weight pressure from one 
finger to another, by slight elevation of wrist 
and aid of arm; for the latter is but the tube 
through which the fluid flows — so to speak. 
The violinist, in melody playing, does not re- 
lax his pressure on the string or his firmness 
on the bow, because the tone has sounded, 
neither does the singer relax the diaphragm. 
Why should not the same principle hold good 
on the piano? I know that it does and that I 
am able to produce a more and more beautiful 
tone as I succeed in applying this principle 
more perfectly. 


"I believe in technical exercises outside of 
pieces, in fact I feel them to be a necessity, 
and do a certain amount daily. At this mo- 
ment I have not been able to touch the piano 
for several days, not since my last recital. 
Therefore, I should need to exercise my fingers 

John Powell 43 

and get them in running order, before attempt- 
ing to play anything at all, — for the same rea- 
son that a piece of machinery must be oiled to 
be fit for use. It is necessary, too, to have a 
healthy body as well as a sound mind, if one 
wishes to do anything great in music or any 
other branch of art." In this connection Mr. 
Powell had much to say of the Fresh Air Art 
Society, which he considers a most important 
movement in the world of allied arts. We then 
discussed the part played by the mind in musi- 
cal delivery. 


"During the actual performance of a com- 
position, what are the mental processes in- 
volved?" I asked. 

"I feel the mind must be wholly occupied 
with the meaning of the music ; its emotion and 
content should be lived through, during a per- 
formance of it. This is far removed from any 
consideration of the audience as listeners — 
what they are thinking about or whether the 
player is making a telling effect on them. If 
we can hold ourselves in this highly wrought, 
exalted state, we will be unconscious of the 
audience. We will even be quite unconscious 
of the keys our fingers are touching, for we 


44 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

are only thinking of portraying ideas, feelings, 
emotions. To reach this state of conscious- 
ness, we must know the notes of the composi- 
tion with absolute certainty in order to be ob- 
livious of them. Piano playing does not con- 
sist merely of setting keys in motion ; it is far 
beyond all that; it is an exemplification of in- 
ner experience, of life itself. For I hold that 
art is the expression of life. 

"The mental state of the player during per- 
formance depends on his attitude towards 
music itself and the way he has studied it. 
There seem to be three stages in the learning 
of a composition. First to read it through as 
though it were a book; second to study it in 
detail; lastly, to get at the meaning and live 
through the experiences which caused those 
notes to be written and the composition to 
spring into being. 

"Leschetizky may say to a student: 'In six 
months you will study a certain composition; 
look it through now and become familiar with 
it — amuse yourself with it ; later we will study 
it seriously.' And if you merely read over 
the composition frequently enough, either at 
the piano, or as you would read a book, away 
from the instrument, you will, almost uncon- 
sciously, come to know the notes quite well. 

John Powell 45 

After this comes the study in detail, and finally 
that wonderful assimilation of content which 
makes the work a part of your very being and 
life. The artist holding such an ideal of inter- 
pretation, can, when able to forget himself 
and his surroundings, give an inspired per- 

"Such concentration as this is far and away 
removed from reciting the notes of the com- 
position while playing it, or 'following it' in 
solfege, as some recommend. If we long to 
express the inner emotion and feeling of the 
piece, we want to get away from mere mechani- 
cal memory, even to get away from those bits 
of ivory, which seem to hamper our flights of 
thought, though we must, perforce, have such 
accurate knowledge of them. ^J 


"I hold that music can depict definite ideas 
and emotions. I have made many experi- 
ments with adults and children, even with ani- 
mals. A young nephew of mine, who had never 
heard any of Wagner's music, listened to some 
of the motives I played for him, and tried to 
put into words their meaning, and what the 
themes describe, as he felt them. He often 
hit the mark with wonderful exactness, though 

46 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

the words and descriptions were often crude. 
Music is called a language, a means of self- 
expression. We are all musicians in this sense 
— even composers. We can compose music 
by the tones of our voices in speech. We can 
cause the same sentence to have many mean- 
ings by using various inflections of voice. 

"As I said a moment ago I feel the com- 
poser has a definite idea in writing his work, 
that it expresses certain thoughts, feelings, 
emotions. It is for the interpreter to discover 
what these are. He can do this if it be true 
that music really expresses a definite idea. 
When this is discovered, the interpreter should 
feel in playing what the composer felt in writ- 
ing it, in order to adequately express his mean- 
ing. How many-sided the inner life of an 
artist must be ! How wide his knowledge, how 
keen his sympathies! The artist must begin 
within — in his own soul. Life is the principal 
thing. It is a training of the spirit. Of what 
use to sit at the piano fifteen hours a day, as 
some do. That will not make an artist, if 
there is nothing within to express. I long to 
say to them : Don't spend all the time in piano 
practice; don't shirk responsibilities; don't be 
a recluse. Mingle with others; discipline is 
life. Live bigly — Live!" 

John Powell 47 

"Only music which is great enough to ex- 
press real feeling and emotion is worth the 
learning or the effort to interpret. I do not 
waste time over what is not entirely worthy." 


In the field of composition, Mr. Powell has 
worked mostly in the larger forms, although he 
is the author of a number of songs. Of the 
former there are three sonatas and two con- 
certos for piano; a concerto for violin, also a 
sonata for violin and piano. He has written 
a couple of piano suites, entitled, respectively, 
"In the South" and "At the Fair;" also a set 
of variations and double fugue on a theme by 
F. C. Hahr, his former teacher. A choral 
work in oratorio form treats the church service 
dramatically, its author explains. 


There are comparatively few American com- 
posers who have put out works in the sonata 
form. We are familiar with the great Four 
of MacDowell, or at least some of us are. As 
yet we have not produced many composers 
who have the gifts as well as the learning to 
cope successfully with this greatest of instru- 

48 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

mental forms, so we need not wonder at the 
small number of such works produced. 

That a sonata by a native composer has 
lately had a hearing in New York, is an event 
of importance worth recording. When this 
hearing proved the work to be an epoch-mak- 
ing one, built on broad lines, of deep and sig- 
nificant content, the event gave cause for sin- 
cere satisfaction. 

The event referred to was the hearing of 
John Powell's Sonata Teutonica, played be- 
fore the MacDowell Club, in April, 1916. This 
was the first performance of the work in 
America, though it had been given twice in 
London, namely on March 7th, 1914, when 
Benno Moiseiwitsch, the admired Russian 
pianist, played it in Bechstein Hall; and again 
in June of same year, on which occasion it was 
rendered by the composer himself. 

At the MacDowell Club Mr. Powell pre- 
ceded his performance by a short talk, in 
which he explained the structure of the work, 
the ideas embodied in it, its meaning and sym- 
bolism. He also read quotations from the de- 
scriptive pamphlet, prepared by the English 
writer Richard Brockwell. Mr. Powell's mas- 
terly performance of his work vividly set forth 
its spirit, and deeply moved his hearers. They 

John Powell 49 

felt the event to be most unusual and porten- 
tous ; that they were privileged to listen to an 
original composition of large dimensions and 
pregnant meaning, set forth in a truly inspired 

In going over the work subsequently with 
the composer, he said in part : 

"In naming the work Sonata Teutonica, 
I had in mind not a country or a race of people, 
but rather the spirit of aspiration, the desire 
and effort to achieve something high and noble, 
which binds together in one bond of unity all 
the great souls of the ages. This spirit of One- 
ness links the great of the past, and descends 
through the philosophers, poets, musicians, 
sculptors and painters of every country, down 
to us to-day. The Idea of Oneness, taken in 
this sense, is to me wonderful and beautiful ; I 
have pondered it deeply, and have tried to voice 
it in this composition. The conception has oc- 
cupied my thought for years before I ever be- 
gan to write the music, into the composition 
of which I have put four years of my life." 


"The Motto of the Sonata: 'The ocean is 
in the drop, as the drop is in the ocean,' seems 
to convey a sense of oneness and harmony. Or, 

50 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

to put the same thought in another form; 'The 
Sonata is in the Movement as the Movement is 
in the Sonata.' 


"The Sonata has three movements, which 
may be designated in this way: First, The 
Ideal; Second, The Temperamental; Third, 
The Actual. In other words, Part One typi- 
fies the emotional effect of the idea of oneness ; 
Part Two, the universal Teutonic Tempera- 
ment (this in a symbolic and not a racial 
sense) ; Part Three, triumphant result of this 
principle, acting on this nature, in the world 
of outer activity. 

"First Movement — Allegro. Our first 
theme is the Motive of Oneness, the second is 
the Song Theme. As these unfold and inter- 
twine, we come to the Motive of Victory, which 
also reappears in the last movement. In the 
first movement, it takes the form of a proph- 
ecy. The coda expresses the attainment of the 
sense of Oneness, and the whole ends softly, in 
ethereal harmonies. 

"Second Movement: Andante, is a set of 
Variations on a Folk Theme. This second di- 
vision of the work comprises four parts, 
namely, Variations, Fugue, Scherzo and 

John Powell 51 

Finale. The effort has been, however, to pre- 
serve unity throughout all four parts. There 
is considerable variety in the Variations. One 
is a merry Landler. Beethoven was fond of 
using the country dance, so was Schubert; 
Wagner has done so in his Meister singer. In 
the Fugue we see the action of the various 
forces, temperamentally considered. The har- 
monies are dark and sinister ; the gloom of mor- 
tal mind struggles with the spiritual, in writh- 
ing progressions, which threaten to obliterate 
the higher nature, but fail utterly, for the ma- 
terial is put down and the spiritual gains the 

"Third Movement: Marcia, in Rondo 
Form. The Theme of Triumph is a victorious 
announcement of the Theme of Oneness, which 
later rises to a chorale-like climax ; the Theme 
of Oneness, predominating over the other har- 
monies, brings the work to a powerful and ma- 
jestic close. This last movement occupies four- 
teen minutes, the first sixteen and the middle 
movement thirty-two, for performance." 

Musicians who have heard the Sonata have 
expressed their admiration in words of high 
praise. Some have called it great, vital, a 
stupendous, epoch-making work. 

The composer was asked if he would, like 

52 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

MacDowell, continue to express himself in 
works of this form. 

"How can I?" he answered. "I have said 
all I have to say in this; further expression 
along the same line would be only repetition. 
I have put my heart's blood into this; it is a 
reflection of my deepest thought and experi- 
ence, of my highest aspiration. 

If the writer may be pardoned a suggestion, 
it could be wished that Mr. Powell had chosen 
another title for his work. The one selected 
requires much explanation to make it seem suit- 
able to the spirit of the music. Even with the 
composer's elucidation, the term leaves the lay 
mind somewhat mystified. "Eternal Unity," 
"The Triumph of the Ideal," "The Universe," 
are a few of the titles which suggest themselves, 
as embodying more of the spirit and meaning 
of the music. 



To any one fortunate enough to have oppor- 
tunity for observation and comparison, the 
hands of the various pianists prove an ex- 
ceptionally interesting and at the same time 
a psychological study. There are so many 
kinds, from the broad, plump hand, full- 
fleshed and muscular, all the way to the slen- 
der, sinewy hand, the embodiment of nervous 
energy. As the artist-teacher so frequently 
remarks concerning his pupils, "All hands are 
different," so it may be said of the artists 
themselves, namely, that the hand of each 
artist is unlike every other. A musician who 
once grasped the hand of Rubinstein reported 
that it seemed as soft and pliable as though 
there were absolutely no bones in it. 

This remark occurred to me as I greeted 
Arthur Shattuck, the American pianist ; I felt 
such a description would apply equally to him. 


54 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

In appearance his hand recalls the model of 
Chopin's hand ; the same long, flexible fingers, 
the same sensitive ability to expand which en- 
abled the Polish master to accomplish those 
wide stretches which appear so constantly in 
his compositions. 

Mr. Shattuck calls his hand "too flexible." 
"It is more difficult," he says, "to strengthen 
and solidify a soft, flexible hand than to lim- 
ber up and make supple a firmly knit one. I 
have done a great deal for my hand by means 
of the right sort of practice. In short, I have 
worked very hard for what I have achieved, 
and am not at all ashamed to say so, or to 
admit the fact. Pianists who have reached 
a great eminence in their art often let it be 
thought they were not obliged to labor for 
such a result; they give the impression there 
is little need for them to practice, when the 
truth is they spend many hours daily in hard 

"I believe in a certain amount of technical 
practice outside of compositions, as well as in 
the making of technical material out of diffi- 
cult portions of them. I give a certain amount 
of time daily to pure technic study, using 
many combinations of double notes in all kinds 
of forms. I am old-fashioned enough to make 

Arthur Shattuch 55 

use of scales and arpeggios, and to believe in 
slow practice. Too much slow practice, how- 
ever, I feel is a mistake; activity is just as 
essential, and, aside from certain exercises, the 
use of a very heavy touch should be made with 

"My student days were spent in Vienna, for 
I was with Leschetizky a number of years. 
Those were years filled with many delightful 
experiences. I can also say I have witnessed 
some poignant scenes in the studio. It al- 
most seemed as though there were three dis- 
tinct personalities in the master. On some 
days he would be harsh, critical, exacting; at 
other times indifferent, and sometimes in rare 
good humor. When in such a benign mood, 
the sun shone and all was serene in the studio, 
for he approved of everything which was 

"The master had two grand pianos in his 
musical work room; he always sat at one to 
make corrections and illustrate the passage 
under discussion. Of course he did not want 
the student to sit quietly and merely absorb 
his instructions in silence. He expected ac- 
tive interest, minute attention to his illustra- 
tions, and plenty of questions asked. The 


56 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

student soon apprehended these conditions 
and, if wise, complied with them. 

"When one has been for a long time — a 
good many years — with one master, even 
though he be the greatest in the world, there 
comes a time when the student must learn to 
go alone; he must work out his own salvation 
— must find himself. It is then necessary to 
hear all the music possible, piano, violin and 
song recitals, and above all the opera. In this 
way he becomes broadened and matured. 

"To return to the subject of piano prac- 
tice. I believe the attention should at all times 
be alert, thoroughly occupied with the matter 
in hand. Even if only making slow move- 
ments with single fingers, one must entirely 
concentrate on the effort. The mind must 
work as well as the fingers. The piece must 
be learned thoroughly, every note. If a small 
passage, or even a single note is mentally un- 
clear, this may cause disaster at some unfore- 
seen moment. To accomplish this the mind 
must be fresh. For if one is fatigued and 
finds it difficult to concentrate, it is much bet- 
ter to stop for a while, take up a book, or go 
to the window. 

"I am a thorough believer in the Virgil 
Practice Clavier as an assistant to serious 

Arthur Shattuck 57 

study. I always carry a clavier with me, not 
only for technical work but for the practice of 
repertoire. When taking a long journey by 
rail or water, I have it set up in my stateroom, 
where I can work undisturbed. I could tell 
of many amusing experiences which have oc- 
curred during my travels with this instru- 
ment. On one occasion, in a little French vil- 
lage, several men carried it on their shoulders 
from the railway station to the hotel. As they 
walked through the main street, the bystanders 
stood respectfully in line and crossed them- 
selves as it passed. At another time, in Nor- 
way, when I appeared with my clavier, I was 
told the hotel was full, but I could lodge in 
a stable or outhouse. After many persuasive 
arguments I at last convinced the hotel pro- 
prietor that my baggage was harmless by in- 
ducing him to look inside the suspicious look- 
ing box. When he found it did not contain 
dynamite or anything of a murderous nature, 
he allowed me to enter the hotel and gave me 
the best rooms in the house. 

"With the clavier I also make use of the 

"You ask about memorizing piano music. 
I have found the surest and best way to ac- 
complish this is with solfege — reciting the syl- 

58 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

lables of the tonic sol fa system as I play the 
notes of the piece. You are, of course, ac- 
quainted with Mr. Wager Awayne's manner 
of doing this; I think his ideas on the subject 
are wonderful. 

"One word as to interpretation. When 
playing a melody, deliver it as a singer would 
do, and phrase where the singer would breathe. 
Study your music away from the piano; it is 
amazing how quickly you get at the form and 
shape; you can hear it mentally, undistracted 
by physical contact with keys. Form a de- 
cided idea of passage or piece, though it may 
vary from time to time." 

Mr. Shattuck believes in the many-sided- 
ness of art and its study, and has developed 
himself along other lines. He delights in 
drawing and painting and has made many 
sketches of out-of-the-way places. He has 
traveled all over the world and played in coun- 
tries seldom if ever visited by musical artists. 
A few years ago it occurred to him that, as 
no pianist had ever toured Iceland, such a 
trip might be well worth the taking. His tour 
in that country proved to be both interesting 
and profitable. Later he visited Egypt, and 
after a series of concerts in the land of the 
Khedive, he secured a caravan and passed sev- 

Arthur Shattuch 59 

eral months on an oasis in the Sahara. The 
transporting of a grand piano into the desert 
land attracted no little attention. The idea 
of being alone with his piano in the desert 
appealed to the pianist, and he found it a 
splendid place to practice. 

He says : "The stars spoke to me as I walked 
soft-footed through the sand; the pure night 
wind spoke the language of the universe. 
Here and there yellow lights, from a distant 
camp, flashed out like fireflies; now and then 
a silent, swift-footed Arab could be seen, steal- 
ing along among the shadows, reminding one 
of the fabled woman who haunts the Sphinx. 
Far away the Great Pyramid seemed to float 
between the desert sand and the cloudless sky, 
as though the golden palace of Aladdin was 
being transported through the air by the 
Genie of the lamp. For a pianist with a vivid 
imagination, and a real desire to work, it was 
an ideal place to study. Practice amid such 
surroundings was not work, only pleasure." 

An artist with such an environment should 
be able to weave the subtle influences about 
him into marvelous tonal coloring on his in- 
strument. He surely could picture the bar- 
baric splendor of some passing cavalcade, the 
gold of those burning sands under the blaze 

60 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

of noon, the witchery of moonlit nights; he 
could saturate himself with color and atmos- 
phere, steep himself in the magic which would 
illumine the pages of the Liszt B Minor So- 
nata, or the various Hungarian Rhapsodies. 



Years ago, when Leopold Godowsky was 
a resident of America — or was it when he was 
making his first tour here? — I remember viv- 
idly on one occasion studying his pianistic 
work from a position of vantage almost di- 
rectly over the piano, when he played with 
the orchestra under Theodore Thomas. I 
noted many things about his playing then, be- 
sides the ease, fluency and dynamic effects, 
which belong, of course, to every pianist's 
equipment. One of the principal points which 
struck me was the absolute precision with 
which everything was accomplished. Chords 
especially were prepared through the fingers 
taking form — in the air — of the arrangement 
of keys and intervals, and then descending on 
the group, or gripping them, as the case de- 
manded. That is to say, the fingers and hand 
were prepared and made ready for the chord 


62 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

before it was played, so that each tone had 
its place and value in the chord group. Sin- 
gle tones were also prepared and fingers made 
ready to take the key before the arm de- 
scended; arms and hands were slanted for 
scales and arpeggios; all was clean-cut, exact 
and well articulated. 


Since those days the pianist has, through 
constant study and effort of thought, risen to 
a more exalted height. Technical mastery and 
perfection, such as few possess, have been won. 
Technical difficulties do not exist for him. All 
gradations of tone, from powerful crescendi to 
fine-spun pianissimi of gossamer delicacy, are 
alike delivered without trace of effort. There 
can be no question about the consummate per- 
fection which molds and permeates everything 
he touches. 

"The deep things of our art," says the mas- 
ter, "are little understood by general students 
of the piano. The great artist is an autocrat, 
a monarch ; his work can only make appeal to 
the few; they alone can understand. That this 
should be so lies in the character of the instru- 
ment and its music. The piano is a marvel, 
perhaps the greatest instrument we have. It 


7S m^c^A^j^A M 

*%/* (M'UU 


Leopold Godowshy 63 

is so intimate, yet so impersonal. The singer 
must be supplemented by an accompanist, and 
can only sing one note at a time. The vio- 
linist can at best play but two notes at a time 
and he also must be assisted. The pianist, on 
the other hand, comes unaided before his au- 
dience ; he alone must speak, for he has the field 
to himself. He must make clear his meaning 
on a more or less responsive medium of wood 
and metal ; he must revivify the signs and sym- 
bols which are to paint the mood or picture. 
He must translate thought and feeling into 
tones ; he must express what is subtle and deep, 
yet too intangible to put into words. Where 
language ends music begins. 

"Among those who play the piano, we have 
almost every variety of exposition. There are 
some whose deep learning leads them to be 
philosophers; others feel called to be preach- 
ers of their art. Then we have the refined 
poets, the dramatic players, the causseurs, the 
entertainers, or those who have such high ani- 
mal spirits that they exemplify a wild pony 
galloping over the plains." The speaker men- 
tioned examples of each of these varieties 
among the artists now before the public. 


64 Piano Mastery — Second Series 


"We need to consider what a man is aiming 
at before we judge him. A causseur cannot 
measure up to the standard of the philosopher, 
yet he may be most excellent in his line. It 
is seen that comparisons are not possible. It 
is futile to ask, 'Who is the greatest?' as is so 
often done. The public does not understand 
these distinctions ; therefore, as I said, the truly 
great artist speaks to the few who can un- 
derstand. This condition will doubtless exist 
for hundreds of years to come. And when, 
eventually, the masses do understand, the artist 
must also advance, so as to be always to the 
fore, always above the rest, to uplift others, 
for his calling is a very high one. 


As to so-called piano methods I feel it nec- 
essary to look deeper than method in order to 
find the underlying principles. Perhaps the 
most important principle of all — one that I 
have been elucidating for many years — is re- 
laxation. This is not the same as devitaliza- 
tion, which, if used indiscriminately and to ex- 
cess, is very detrimental. Relaxed weight on 
the key differs from the old pressure touch, 

Leopold Godowsky 65 

which tended to stiffen muscles and make the 
touch rigid. The finger rests with easy arm 
weight on the key. If more power is desired 
use more weight, if less hold back some of the 


: 'You ask if I approve of finger action, and 
finger lifting? We must have that; we can- 
not throw it away. Wide, free movements are 
necessary to develop the fingers, to stretch the 
skin and flesh between them, to render the hand 
and its playing members supple and flexible. 
So we must be able to raise the fingers and 
move them freely." 

"You refer to the early stages of piano 

"Not only during the early stages, but at 
any time. I consider these large, free move- 
ments and decided action of fingers as a nec- 
essary kind of gymnastics. Just as one exer- 
cises the body with all sorts of gymnastics, so 
we need well-articulated finger movements. I 
make a distinction, however, between the me- 
chanics of piano study and the art of piano 
technic. To the former belong all forms of 
hand culture, finger training and gymnastic 
exercises. To the latter all the finer qualities 

66 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

of touch, tone, fingering, phrasing, pedaling, 
agogics and nuance. Each one of these tech- 
nical divisions is an art in itself. 

"When these are thoughtfully considered, 
as being necessary for the equipment of the 
player, it is easily seen why there are so few 
really great artists among the many who come 
before the public as pianists. For it is a com- 
paratively easy thing to learn how keys are 
manipulated, to attain speed, be able to make 
a crescendo here, a diminuendo there, to ac- 
cent, to copy more or less perfectly the notes 
and marks in a composition. Almost any one 
can do these things with sufficient study. But 
these things do not make an artist — far from 
it. An artist worthy the name is only evolved 
after minute and exhaustive study added to 
musical gifts of high order. 

"There have been musicians, like Liszt and 
Rubinstein, who were so gifted that the lack 
of exact knowledge did not prevent them from 
winning the world. Rubinstein was a child 
of impulse as well as genius; he never did 
things twice the same way; he relied on the 
inspiration of the moment, and one might say 
the same of Liszt. The art of piano playing 
has developed into a more exact science since 
their day. 

Leopold Godowshy 67 


"Among the things I have mentioned as 
belonging to the art of technic, we will speak 
first of phrasing. The question of phrasing 
is of exceeding importance, for phrasing itself 
is a great art. At the present time we know 
so much more about these things than was 
known even fifty years ago. Formerly com- 
posers put few marks on their music; there 
was little or no punctuation. Look at Rubin- 
stein's compositions, for instance. It may be 
said that von Billow was one of the first to 
formulate the laws of phrasing. Christiani's 
book on this subject is an interesting study, 
also one by Mathais Lussy. Perhaps the best 
book on music itself and its performance, at 
least the best I have evep seen, is by Adolph 
Kullak, a brother of Theodore Kullak. This 
is a learned and exhaustive work. The earlier 
edition has been translated into English; the 
revised edition is still, I believe, in the original 

"In the matter of phrasing, Beethoven was 
considered very particular, Chopin also, but 
neither knew as much about the subject as we 
do now. Von Bulow did a great work in edit- 
ing and phrasing Beethoven. Yet Klind- 

68 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

worth, who also edited the master, is perhaps 
subtler in his readings. You remember that 
von Biilow himself gave preference to Klind- 
worth's over his own edition, by advising stu- 
dents to use that of his friend. Of Klind- 
worth's work for Chopin I cannot speak so 
highly. He has changed so many things from 
the original that it is not always clear just 
what the composer really meant. What 
Klindworth should have done in many cases 
was to put the changes in footnotes and leave 
the music of the original as it was written. 


"Another branch of piano technic is finger- 
ing, also a fine art. Before Bach's time, as 
we all know, the thumb was not used at all. 
When he advised its use, it was not to be em- 
ployed on the black keys. Fingering, like 
everything else in piano playing, has been an 
evolution. Even the fingering of the C scale, 
which seems so natural, was not known until 
Dussek thought of it. Chopin made great use 
of thumb on black keys. Von Biilow believed 
in much changing of fingers in order to make 
use of all. So did Klindworth. They evi- 
dently desired to make things difficult instead 
of easy. It can readily be seen that the use 

Leopold Godowshy 69 

of thumb on black keys must throw the hand 
out of position, tend to make the movement 
jerky, and force the hand nearer the name- 
board, where leverage is heavier. I believe in 
avoiding the use of thumb on black keys when 
possible, in order to keep the hand in a more 
natural position; this idea seems to me easier 
and more logical. 


"We hear much talk of subjective and ob- 
jective in musical interpretation. These terms 
are apt to be misleading. Pianists look at the 
subject from different viewpoints, according 
to their temperaments and aims. The im- 
pulsive nature takes the composition as it first 
appears to him, without further analysis, and 
strives to preserve that conception. He trusts 
to the present moment to furnish inspiration. 
Under extremely favorable circumstances he 
may be able to give a really inspired perform- 
ance. Without these conditions his utterances 
may lack all glow and power. Rubinstein was 
an illustration of this style. 

"On the other hand, the careful analytical 
player, who does not trust to first impres- 
sions, who studies every point and determines 
beforehand exactly how he will render the com- 

70 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

position, may lack true inspiration and leave 
us cold. Von Biilow might be cited as a player 
of this type. The ideal interpreter is one who, 
keeping before him the first ideal, has thought 
out every effect and nuance he wishes to make, 
yet leaves himself mentally untrammeled, to 
be moved by the inspiration which may come 
to him during performance. 


"These subjects are vitally important in 
piano playing. What dynamics are to the 
tone, agogics are to time and rhythm; this 
is the new term for the old one of tempo ru- 
bato, Rubato means "robbed," which is again 
misleading, for it says nothing about giving. 
If we take away, we must return, to even 
things up; the new term expresses this better 
than the old. 

"In order to have every note, every phrase 
clear, we must not run them all together, as 
the Germans sometimes make a long com- 
bined word extend across the page. If you 
open an English book you see each work sepa- 
rated from its neighbor by a slight space. Just 
so we learn to make the musical thought or 
phrase clear by the way we make it stand in 
relation to other phrases; the right distance 

Leopold Godowshy 71 

between them; it is the flexibility of rhythm, 
one might say, where everything is in artistic 
relation and balance." 


"Do you consider a legato melody is just 
as successfully connected with the pedal as 
with the fingers?" he was asked. 

"By no means," was the quick reply; 
"though it can be used for special effects. The 
relaxed weight of hand on the key, the trans- 
ference of weight from finger to finger, the 
condition of the hand in connecting a legato 
melody is very different from that of the hand 
lifted between each note; the tone has a dif- 
ferent quality also. If a passage is marked 
legato, I insist on its being played with that 
touch. If chords are written in quarter, half 
or whole notes, I want them held in full time. 
One thing is unendurable — to hear the left 
hand before the right, constantly appoggiat- 
ing. For real appoggiated chords, if the 
waved line only extends the length of each 
chord, both hands are played simultaneously. 
If one long waved line connects the two chords, 
the left hand plays first, followed by the right. 

72 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

il l ' < 


'The Progressive Series of Piano Lessons, 
with which I have been occupied for a num- 
ber of years, in conjunction with a number of 
well-known artists, provides an eight-year 
course for teachers. Besides this there are, in 
conclusion, a resume of the entire subject, the 
pith of the whole matter. Although the 
courses are nominally finished, I have about 
six years more work on compositions to be 
used with them." 

On a subsequent occasion Mr. Godowsky 
was seen just before leaving for a Pacific 
Coast tour. We were soon in animated dis- 
cussion, which lasted for an hour and would 
have extended much longer had not time 
pressed. Mr. Godowsky is a thorough mas- 
ter of English and expressed himself with flu- 
ency and exactness. 

As we had discussed the technical problems 
of piano playing during a previous confer- 
ence, I requested the pianist to go further and 
give his ideas on interpretation. 

"One of the means, or perhaps it should be 
said the backbone, of interpretation is technic. 
I place technic on a higher plane than mechan- 

Leopold Godowshy 73 

ism. Others combine the two; I differentiate 
between them. Technic is the means of ex- 
pression, the medium through which we give 
out the music. I believe that each pianist pre- 
sents a certain mental type, which is revealed 
through his performance; one is a poet, an- 
other a philosopher, a third an orator or even 
a stump orator, and so on. For some it is 
possible to express what they feel; others are 
more reticent, and not given to showing emo- 
tion; they rather repress it and seem to stand 
aloof. Some are ready to reveal everything; 
they are the ones who are popular with the 
public. We do not say of these players that 
they 'descend to the public,' for they merely 
work out their natural temperament ; they are 
one with the public, therefore they never fail 
to please. Those who have the highest ideals 
move in a realm apart ; they never become pop- 
ular in the above sense. Men who have made 
the greatest scientific discoveries are gener- 
ally unknown to the world. 


"The two great factors in interpretation are 
Logic and Proportion. If you examine a 
Greek statue you find it perfect in classic form 
and line. Its proportions are faultless. 

74 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

Among the composers the most perfect ex- 
amples of proportion are Beethoven and 
Brahms. They are the Greeks of musical 

"These two qualities — logic and proportion 
— must dominate the thought of the interpreter 
also — he must express them in his work. In 
just the degree that he lacks them will his 
performance fall short of beauty and expres- 

"Some players might be called pianists of 
the piano. The instrument itself is paramount 
with them rather than the music. The piano 
itself stands first with them. They will make 
all possible effects that are legitimate within 
the scope of the instrument, but never strive 
to make it something it is not. De Pachmann, 
Griinfeld and Sauer are of this type. Busoni, 
on the other hand, does not entertain this view. 
He is so great, such a deep, profound thinker, 
such a philosopher; he is a class by himself. 
For him the piano often represents the organ. 
See his transcriptions of the Bach organ com- 
positions. He interprets them in this style, 
with much pedal and great tonal sonority. 
As organ tones in a cathedral resound and re- 
verberate, owing to the vast spaces, so are the 

Leopold Godotosky 75 

effects Busoni makes on the piano — of continu- 
ous tone-vibrations." 

"The piano is a wonder; there is so much to 
think of and study about it and its marvelous 
literature. I have found pianists generally are 
much deeper thinkers than singers, for exam- 
ple," I remarked. 

"Singers do not analyze their work as pian- 
ists do. If one has a beautiful voice, the mere 
quality of tone will enthrall the listener, out- 
side of the song to be interpreted. If the 
singer merely vocalize a scale, it is still beau- 
tiful and appealing. But the pianist must do 
so many things besides merely playing the 
notes before he can make an appeal. He must 
consider tone quality, dynamics, pedaling, 
power and the whole concept of the piece. 

"You speak of the word pianism. The 
word as used now includes, I take it, the en- 
tire subject of touch, technic, tone and per- 
formance. How odd that a word affects so- 
ciety like a new disease ! All hasten to acquire 
it. The word pianism is the only one that 
can be applied to an instrument outside of the 
human voice. You can say vocalism, but not 

76 Piano Mastery — Second Series 


"The pianist is virtually a conductor, and 
his ten fingers are the instruments over which 
he holds sway. They are to do his bidding. 
He has a whole orchestra under his hands. 
The orchestral conductor merely directs his 
men; the pianist must both direct his whole 
orchestra and play all his various instruments, 
the fingers. His task is a more strenuous one 
than that of any other soloist. 

"Then the literature of the piano. When 
you think of it, no other instrument has the 
literature of the piano. Has there ever been 
a composer like Chopin for any instrument? 
The greatest composers for violin were Vieux- 
temps and Wieniawski; but their work can- 
not compare in value to what Chopin has done 
for the piano. He wrote solely for that one 
medium; he is the poet of the piano. Look 
at Beethoven; he did more for the piano than 
for any other instrument. He composed nine 
symphonies for orchestra and thirty-two so- 
natas for piano. A sonata, as you know, is a 
symphony for one instrument. His last five 
sonatas are greater than anything he ever 
wrote for orchestra. The Opus 57, Appas- 
sionata, is a superb symphony. His last sym- 

Leopold Godowsky 77 

phonies, outside of the Ninth, the greatest, 
are not equal to the last five piano sonatas 
in value. Berlioz wrote principally for or- 
chestra; he may be called the first romanticist 
for that medium. I call him the apostle of 
ugliness. His works for orchestra cannot com- 
pare in value to what either Beethoven or 
Chopin has given to the literature of the piano. 


"To come down to more explicit terms in 
regard to ideas of interpretation, I feel that, 
after a certain period of study, the pianist 
should trust more to his intuitions in the in- 
terpretation of a composition. Intuition first, 
backed up by logical reasoning. Some put it 
the other way round; they put reason first, 
and as a result their performance is dry and 
soulless. For instance, I play a passage and 
make it sound pleasant, expressive; it pleases 
my ear. I then analyze the effects I have 
made and see if they are logical and correct. 
For I must prove each point according to laws 
of interpretation. 

"There are laws of interpretation. One of 
them is never to lay stress on a concord, but 
rather on a dissonance. The stronger the dis- 
sonance the heavier the stress put upon it. 

78 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

That is a fundamental law. Another principle 
is, not to fill rest places with sound. How 
many players sin in this way; either by not 
observing rests or by filling up the place of 
silence by tones prolonged by pedal. Silence 
plays a very important role in music. Silence 
should not be interfered with, filled up or ob- 
structed. Many times it is necessary to hold 
pedal, if one has to jump from the bottom 
to the top of the keyboard. But one must 
know whether to bridge over the skip with 
pedal or to let there be silence between the 


"We speak of traditions of interpretation. 
This should not mean dry, academic formulas 
— it should not mean the traditions of the 
schools and conservatories. They conserve 
the old ideas, for that is the meaning of the 
word. Real tradition in piano playing origi- 
nates with great artists who have discovered 
and evolved certain effects through intuition. 
When these intuitions stand the test, and meas- 
ure up to the highest standards of art, they 
become traditions. 

"The subject of interpretation is a very 
broad as well as a deeply interesting one. It 

Leopold Godowshy 70 

is one upon which I have bestowed a great deal 
of thought and made many discoveries. I re- 
peat, I feel we should trust more to our in- 
tuitions than we do. It is claimed by one 
learned man that, if the world had followed 
this course, we should now be on a higher 
plane of civilization than we are; present 
events seem to bear out his theory." 


After listening to Carl Friedberg, both in 
recital and with orchestra, it was a pleasure 
to have the opportunity for a talk with him 
in the seclusion of the home; to find him the 
simple, unaffected gentleman, with frank, 
winning manner, quite willing to talk of his 
methods of teaching and of study. 

"I might say at the outset," began the pi- 
anist, "that I believe the legato touch is of the 
most importance in piano playing; it is the 
sine qua non of beautiful tone. I am aware 
that some modern players do not agree with 
this: they think everything should be played 
with the arm. Even Busoni, whom I admire 
exceedingly and consider one of the very great- 
est artists, says in his edition of Bach's Well- 
Tempered Clavichord that there is no legato 
possible on the piano. I must differ from 
those who hold to this idea, for I emphati- 
cally believe and can prove there is a legato 
on the piano. It is the foundation of beautiful 


Carl Friedberg 81 


"The tone an artist draws from his instru- 
ment should be round, full and expressive, ca- 
pable of being shaded and varied, just as is 
the bel canto of the singer. We should learn 
to sing with our fingers. I knew the famous 
singer and teacher Rimini and played much 
for him. From this artist I learned a great 
deal, which helped me to acquire a singing, 
expressive tone on the piano. 

"I endeavor to give my piano tone the qual- 
ity of the singing voice. For this reason I 
have made myself familiar with a large number 
of operas of every school. When quite a 
young lad I learned Tristan and Isolde by 
heart, and I still know it, and many other 
opera scores. 

"I have been largely my own teacher, 
though in the beginning I had most excellent 
instruction. I was a pupil of James Quast, 
the Dutch pianist, for four years, and later 
studied for some time with Mme. Clara Schu- 
mann. I also received suggestions from 
Anton Rubinstein. When I first played for 
him he expressed himself as especially pleased 
with my singing tone and my manner of using 


82 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

the pedals. I deeply appreciated his words 
of commendation. w 

"Together with much concert work, I have 
done a great deal of teaching. For the last 
ten years I had been located in Cologne, at 
the Conservatory, where I had charge of the 
artist class. It takes the form of a Meister 
Schule, along the same lines as the one in Vi- 
enna over which Godowsky used to preside. 
Of course I often had to be absent on tour, 
but I still found considerable time for 

"In my teaching I begin with ringer train- 
ing; for I am not one who believes in neglect- 
ing this side of piano technic. If you will 
come over to the piano I will show you just 
what I mean." The artist seated himself at 
the keyboard, illustrating as he talked. 


"I first require a correct position. In this 
I follow the advice of Rubinstein, who coun- 
seled the student to sit on a chair which would 
be the right height to keep the level of the 
arm and wrist, not allowing the elbow to hang 
below the keyboard. The knees are to be close 
together; the heels planted on the floor, with 
the soles of the feet resting on the pedals, but 

Carl Friedberg 83 

not depressing them. The arms fall easily at 
the side, as Mme. Schumann taught, but not 
pressed against it. Now the hand is placed 
on five keys, in a vaulted position, just as 
Leschetizky requires. I will now hold my 
hand in this position, and depress one key with 
the middle finger. As you see, the condition 
of arm is quite loose and relaxed. You can 
move my arm back and forth, or in any direc- 
tion you choose, but it will be impossible for 
you to dislodge my finger from the key, for 
it remains there with full relaxed arm weight. 


"I now begin to make various movements 
to render the fingers flexible and independent. 
When they are somewhat under control I be- 
gin to train the thumb under the hand, ready 
for scale playing. The thumb moves under the 
hand, for the backward scale form, as soon as 
it has left its key, and is held under the hand 
until its turn comes to play. I am a great 
believer in thorough scale practice in all forms. 

"In regard to equalizing the fingers, some 
players struggle to make all fingers equally 
strong; yet with all their effort the fourth fin- 
ger can never be made as vigorous as the 

84 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

< ■ 

thumb. And why should all the fingers be 
equal — one just the same as the others? It 
is not necessary. Just those slight inequalities 
of touch give variety and expressiveness to the 
playing. There are times when it is better to 
use weaker fingers than strong ones. 

"When fingers have become somewhat 
trained, I begin on the hand, moving it up and 
down on the wrist. Chords are played with 
this touch; then from the elbow, and lastly 
in combination with the upper arm, which of 
course hangs loosely from the shoulder. 

"For all this technical drill I use hundreds 
of exercises of my own, which have never been 
printed. I do not adhere strictly to one set 
of these, but invent new ones constantly, per- 
haps changing them every week. If fingers 
are weak and bending, they must be made 
strong by special pressing and gymnastic 


"The student concentrates his efforts on 
legato touch and on beautiful and expressive 
tone quality. If I have a melody to play I 
can do it, as many modern artists do, with a 
movement of hand and arm for each note — 

Carl Friedberg 85 

that is to say, detaching one note from an- 
other. With proper pedaling, such a manner 
of playing can be made to sound very well." 
Here Mr. Friedberg illustrated his point. 
"Now I will play the same passage with pure 
legato touch and you will hear the difference. 
I prefer the pure legato to the detached way 
of playing. When a melody lies in more ex- 
tended position, the hand can reach for the 
notes with steadiness and control. We might 
liken this tense reaching out from one note 
to another to a suspension bridge, swung be- 
tween two supports — the fingers." This re- 
mark reminded me forcibly of William H. 
Sherwood's method of turning the hand and 
reaching out for the key, with slow, controlled 

"I believe in making everything musical, in 
always making the tone beautiful, even in 
technical exercises and scales," went on the 
pianist. "The piano is more than a thing of 
metal and wood; it can speak, and the true 
artist will draw from it wonderful tones. It 
should be part of his constant study to create 
beautiful tone. I believe a single tone can 
be made expressive. I can prove this to you." 
Here Mr. Friedberg played several single 

86 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

tones here and there on the keyboard. Each 
of these was played with arm weight. The 
pressure was slightly relaxed after the key had 
sounded, not enough to remove the finger, but 
just sufficient to make the tone expressive and 
varied in quality and color. The tone sang. 

"It is a most interesting study, this effort 
to discover new and beautiful effects of tone 
and variety of production. So much can be 
done with staccatos, too. There are so many 
kinds; the hand staccato, the finger staccato, 
the drawing off, elastic touch. Staccato can 
sometimes be executed with a single finger, for 
an entire passage, as this for example." Here 
the pianist dashed into a passage in eighth 
notes, from a Chopin mazourka, using only the 
second finger and keeping the rest of the hand 
closed. He then repeated the selection with 
normal fingering and legato touch; the con- 
trast was very marked. 

"If a student comes to you," I asked, "who 
plays tolerably well, though not trained along 
these technical lines, do you require him, first 
of all, to go through this technical drill?" 

"I do not require it. I explain my ideas to 
him, illustrate them and show him the advan- 
tages of such training. He is at once anxious 

Carl Friedberg 87 

to study in this way; I have never found one 
who did not wish to do so." 

Since the above conversation, Mr. Friedberg 
has become more at home in this country, 
where his time is now fully occupied with 
teaching and many concert appearances. 




At home in her beautiful apartments in New 
York, after a season of concert playing, Mme. 
Yolanda Mero, the brilliant Hungarian pian- 
ist, talked of her work and her musical ideas. 

"I do not love technic for its own sake, and 
therefore I now practice it but little. Of 
course, I must play scales sometimes — not 
every day, however. You see I have no daily 
routine, as some pianists have; that is because 
I am not methodical, in the first place, and, 
secondly, because that kind of practice seems 
to me such a waste of time. When I am away 
on a tour, there is often no time to practice at 
all; and if there should be a little while here 
and there, the piano may be a poor one, so that 
I feel better just to let it alone and not attempt 
to practice at all. 

"Some pianists take a silent keyboard with 
them wherever they go, but I have never done 
so. When I am here in my home, between en- 



hHi fcvn-dwJ' ?&}tuj& vL^-*-* 

fin Jpxii %]* n^^n^ 

Yolanda Mero 89 

gagements, I practice ; but even then I am not 
systematic about it. When the fever is on 
then I work with enthusiasm — a whole day at 
a time; but I must be in the mood to work or 
I accomplish nothing. If I am not in the 
mood, I would rather keep away from the 
piano or play only a bit to amuse myself. 


"In the beginning, it is true, I had to prac- 
tice technic very carefully and exactly. My 
father taught me at the start; that was when 
I was five and a half. One thing he made me 
do which I think helped me very much to gain 
accuracy. He would spread a cloth over the 
keyboard, and, with this barrier between my 
little fingers and the keys, I must play my 
scales, etudes and pieces." (This reminds one 
of the little Mozart, playing before the nobility. 
Some one suggested it was only by means of 
magic he was able to accomplish such wonders. 
The little fellow indignantly protested, and 
offered to play the same piece with the keys 
quite covered. He was as good as his word, 
to the increased astonishment of the court.) 
"That sort of training made me so exact that I 
very seldom touch a wrong key now. But I 
am sure that this course can be followed only 


90 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

with little children; with older ones or with 
grown-ups it is too late to try it. 

"At the age of eight I had a woman teacher, 
Frau Professor Augusta Rennebaum, who is 
at the National Conservatorium at Buda- 
pest. I consider her a wonderful teacher, in 
fact, I have had no other. I have been with 
her from my eighth year until I came to 
America. With her I did all possible etudes, 
from Kohler and Czerny to Clementi and Tau- 
sig. That is, perhaps, why I do not practice 
technic now, I have been through so much. 
Moreover, it no longer interests me. 


"What I want now is music, I want the 
ideas. My preference is for music filled with 
ideas, with emotion, not for pieces whose tech- 
nical display will astonish and dazzle. A work 
like the Paganini Variations of Brahms, for 
instance, is full of brilliant technical feats which 
seem to obscure the deeper meanings of the 
piece. I play these Variations, to be sure, but 
they do not greatly appeal to me. I am very 
fond of Schumann, his Kreisleriana, Fan- 
taisie Stucke, Carneval and other things. 
You mention my playing the Vogrich Staccato 
Caprice, which is a brilliant show piece. Quite 

Yolanda Mero 91 

true, but that was a youthful indiscretion. I 
played it when a very little girl, and now, 
everywhere I go, I am asked to play it. I 
can assure you I never have to practice that, 
for I have played it so much. 

"I feel there is other music just as beautiful 
as piano music. I am devoted to that for the 
violin or for the orchestra ; it all interests me so 
much; chamber music, too. When there is 
such a wealth of instrumental music of all 
kinds, I feel it such a loss of time to spend so 
much of it on technic, pure and simple. Others 
may not agree with me however. There is 
Mme. Sophie Menter, for instance, who has a 
marvelous technic. She spends hours daily in 
five-finger technic work. This consists largely 
of repeating the same note with each finger in 
succession over and over again, now loud, now 
soft, with every conceivable variety of touch 
and tone. The principle she works on is 
equality. The theory is that as each finger 
plays the note, the ear must discriminate be- 
tween the tones and strive to make each tone 
like all the others. If five fingers can be thus 
trained to play single notes with absolute 
evenness they will, it is claimed, preserve this 
equality in scales, arpeggios or whatever is 
played. For myself I could never follow such 

92 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

a regime, but she has achieved wonderful re- 
sults from it. 


"When I take up a new work I play it 
through quite as a child would, carefully and 
slowly, from end to end. I do this over and 
over till the plan of the piece is in my mind 
and in my ear, till I can hear it. Then the 
real study of it begins ; then I really, work 
at it. 

"I do not say to myself: Now I shall add 
this piece to my repertoire, therefore I will 
begin at once to memorize it, first one hand 
and the other, then both together. No, I study 
the contents of the piece as a whole, then each 
in detail. The result is that, almost before I 
know it has happened, I know the notes from 
memory. This seems to me a better way than 
to start at once to memorize the notes. For, 
in the effort to do this, and to play without 
them, in the early stages, one may miss many 
signs and marks which would otherwise be ob- 
served, if the printed page were before one. 
This does not mean that I am averse to com- 
mitting the music away from the instrument, 
for I often do this on trains during my travels 
from place to place. There is so much tech- 

Yolanda Mero 93 

nic to be found in pieces, and it is the sort of 
technic that is interesting, too. To take scales 
and play them to-day at a certain speed and 
to-morrow a little better, or worse, that is not 
sufficiently absorbing to keep my mind on 
them; I fall to thinking of other things. But 
to study a difficult passage in a musical work, 
to see and hear it grow better and better with 
practice — there is keen zest in that. 


"In studying a concerto, I first begin with 
the score, for I must know every note of each 
instrument of the orchestra as well as my own 
piano part. The player who does not do this 
is liable to come to grief during performance 
in public. It is a great responsibility, this 
playing with orchestra; much greater than 
playing solos. For in the latter instance one 
may cover a slip more easily. It is true one 
should be able to improvise a passage when 
playing with orchestra, but this seems to me 
more difficult. 


"In regard to keeping up my technic to 
concert pitch, I can say that I do not now 
practice scales and technical forms outside of 

94 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

pieces. Of course in earlier days I had to do 
a great deal of pure technic study. But now 
I find all I need in the pieces themselves. 
When I have mastered the special forms con- 
tained in the piece, I have those and the piece 
as well. 

"As for octaves, I do not now practice them 
outside of pieces; for if there is any octave 
work in a piece it is apt to give one plenty to 
do. Take the Sixth Rhapsodie of Liszt, for 
instance, can any octave exercise be devised 
better than that? Then there is the Fourth 
Rhapsodie also, as you suggest, on the same 
order, only not quite so difficult; both give 
splendid opportunity for octave study. Other 
pieces might also be quoted for this purpose. 

"One word more about practicing. I can 
never do it when unable to give my whole time 
to it, for then I accomplish nothing ; my whole 
thought must be on my work. Yes, I do all 
my practice at the piano. No one in the house 
has objected as yet; when they do I shall get 
a silent keyboard, but not before." 

"It seems to me your art has grown, broad- 
ened and ripened to a wonderful degree, since 
you have been in America," I said to Mme. 
Mero, as we sat chatting in her music room 

Yolanda Mero 95 

one forenoon, shortly after a New York re- 
cital, which had been performed with consum- 
mate mastery, with exquisite refinement of 
style and tonal effects. "I was deeply im- 
pressed with this fact on hearing your recital 
here the other day. As I remember, when 
you first played in New York, some six years 
ago, you were all fire and flame, — all tempera- 
ment. Now it is temperament perfectly con- 
trolled, though the fire is there, just below the 
surface. But it is held in fine balance, tem- 
pered by unerring taste and skill. You must 
have lived deeply in these years." 

"I am older and more matured," said the 
young artist, with her brilliant smile; "I have 
toned down some of my early enthusiasms. 
Then I have been a great deal before the pub- 
lic and have played much since I first came 
here; I have made several tours in this coun- 
try and one in Europe in that time. The 
longer one is before the public, the more re- 
poseful one can appear, at least on the out- 
side; yet there may be an increasing anxiety 
below the surface. But we learn not to show 
it outwardly. It is the nervousness that grips 
one before going on that is so distracting. As 
soon as I have begun, played myself out a 
little, grown familiar with my audience and 

96 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

established a sympathy between us, I am per- 
fectly at home and do not think of the listeners. 

"What you have found, that pianists have 
much more to say for themselves and their art 
than the vocalists have for theirs, is no doubt 
true. The reason is not far to seek. Is it not 
because the pianist must be a highly educated 
person, knowing many sides of his art? He 
must not only have mastered the technical side, 
but he must have a knowledge of harmony, 
form and counterpoint, and also know the 
works he plays. Then he must know many 
other things besides music, — literature, poetry, 
art, — life. 

"To speak of the mechanical side, think of 
the years of exhaustive study which must be 
spent to acquire a modern technic for the 
piano. A person, however, with a beautiful 
voice, who spends two years or so with a good 
teacher, can sing in concerts and even go on 
tour. With perhaps thirty songs and a couple 
of arias, one is considered ready to come before 
the public. But to learn thirty songs would 
hardly match the labor bestowed on one 
Chopin etude. Then think of the repertoire a 
public pianist must have ! 

Yolanda Mero 97 


"On the other hand, the pianist is at a dis- 
advantage when measured with a singer. 
Singing is always much more popular with an 
average audience than piano playing. The 
'tired business man,' wishing to be entertained, 
will turn out to hear a singer render an aria 
and some nice English songs, when he could 
not stand the strain and mental fatigue of 
listening to a piano recital. This happens all 
over the country, and is a condition we pian- 
ists have to contend with. It may not be the 
condition in New York or in other music cen- 
ters, where there is a large musical public, 
where there are many who know and love piano 
music. Of course musical appreciation has 
increased greatly, and the understanding of 
piano music is making wonderful strides. Yet 
for all this, the pianist must choose his pro- 
grams very carefully in order to interest and 
not weary the average audience. 


"I have not added much so-called modern 
music to my repertoire, perhaps because it does 
not always seem beautiful to me. It may be 
interesting, impressionistic, symbolic, but not 

98 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

satisfying, as is most of Chopin, for in- 
stance. Very few of the extremely modern 
things make me feel I cannot rest without 
learning them, — or that I must play them. 

"I have been interested in the work of the 
Russian Ballet, and the modern compositions 
they have illustrated, the music of Petrouchka, 
for instance, and some of the other selections. 
In Schumann's Carneval, it seems to me much 
more might have been done with it in a chore- 
ographic way than has been accomplished. 
There is such a great variety in the various 
scenes, as you know, but as given by the Ballet, 
some of the best are left out. It does not seem 
a desecration to me as it does to some people, 
to see the Carneval pictured in the dance. For 
we have become somewhat accustomed to this 
through the work of Duncan and others. We 
have had Beethoven's Seventh Symphony, the 
Mendelssohn Spring Song, and various Schu- 
bert and Chopin pieces portrayed in the dance. 
Why not the Carneval, or any other selection, 
if by so doing the music is presented more 
vividly to the imagination? 


"I am fond of the old music, pieces which 
one seldom hears of nowadays. One composer 

Yolanda Mero 99 

whose music is much neglected, is Philip 
Emanuel Bach. I have found some lovely and 
little known things of his. Here is one, a 
Rondo in E major." And sitting down at the 
piano, Mme. Mero illustrated as she talked. 
"I also play the Organ Concerto in D Minor, 
by his brother, Friedmann Bach. It has been 
arranged for piano by Stradal. 

"Then there are some fine things of Haen- 
del (outside of the Harmonious Black- 
smith!). One is the set of Variations in D 
Minor, another is a Gigue in G Minor, both 
of which are little known. A Passacaglia by 
Frescobaldi has been arranged by Stradal 
also ; and I use a Gigue by Hassler. One can- 
not place more than one or two of these old 
pieces on a program with safety. I shall add 
the Sonata Op. 110 of Beethoven to my list 
very soon." 





In Ernest Hutcheson are united the abili- 
ties of the concert artist and the artist teacher. 
It is not easy to take high rank in both the art 
of playing and the art of teaching, but here is 
an Australian musician who has been able to 
do both. In this double capacity he has be- 
come noted on both sides of the ocean. 

Mr. Hutcheson rightly feels that experience 
should loom large when estimating the value 
and usefulness of the teacher. He can often 
determine at once whether a prospective pupil 
can work with him to advantage or be better 
off with some other teacher. 

"I would sometimes rather take a beginner," 
he says, "than one who has played a great deal 
and is very set in his ways. Various students 
come to me asking to be coached on the inter- 
pretation or pedaling, of different pieces. 
They may not be in any condition, technic- 
ally, to play those pieces, or to profit by my 


/Kw i^A ,/**—•*-} tin 

Ernest Hutcheson 101 

ideas on the subject, for they have not taken 
the necessary steps to climb the heights re- 
quired in such compositions. — 
"It is surprising how little many people com- 
prehend where they stand in their musical 
studies. Where they think they are, and 
where they really stand, may be wide apart! 
A teacher needs large experience and acumen 
to help him decide quickly just what regimen 
is best for the pupil, both technically and mu- 
sically. Some pupils can play a Mozart so- 
nata respectably who would have little idea of 
the modern tonal coloring required to render 
even MacDowell's little Wild Rose. Or they 
might play the Reinhold Impromptu with 
brilliancy, yet would quite fail to give the right 
atmosphere to the Water Lily. Some pieces 
which seem simple, so far as the notes go, pre- 
sent difficulties of another sort. How is it 
possible to attempt a Liszt Rhapsodic, when 
one cannot compass the little Fantaisie in D 
Minor, by Mozart? 


"My time has become so limited that I have 
not the leisure to look over quantities of new 
music. One would need to examine perhaps 
a hundred compositions to find one which 

102 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

would be acceptable. Of course I make use 
of the entire standard repertoire in teaching; 
the ultra-modern things come to me, so to 
speak. As I find them, or hear them from 
artists, or occasionally from pupils, I make a 
note of them ; in this way they come to me. 

"I arrange my teaching lists like this," and 
Mr. Hutcheson showed a little blank book 
with lists of pieces, from the classics of Bach 
and Beethoven down to the present hour; cer- 
tain signs indicated their special technical 

"No doubt all teachers make such lists. 
Mine are not arranged in grades, however. I 
could never see the use of grading pieces. 
Pupils vary so greatly in comprehension and 
mentality that the same piece might be dif- 
ficult for one pupil and very simple for an- 
other, both having studied for about the same 
length of time. This shatters the grade the- 
ory. I find myself at sea on the subject, and 
banish all thought of grades." 

Knowing Mr. Hutcheson's wide experience 
in teaching, both privately and in music 
schools, in Europe as well as in America, I 
inquired his opinion as to the relative value of 

"There is much to be said in favor of the 

Ernest Hutcheson 103 

music school. A school is beneficial for its 
routine work and free advantages. If your 
pupil needs ear-training you can require her 
to attend such a class ; it is the same with har- 
mony. All pupils need drill in these subjects, 
and in a school they are included in the tuition. 
Then there are the opportunities to play in 
the concerts and musicals, often with other in- 
struments and with the orchestra. If the stu- 
dent intends becoming professional these 
things are indispensable. In a school they can 
be obtained free of cost. 


"The private teacher, though doing excel- 
lent work, finds himself at a disadvantage on 
these points. Playing before others is an ab- 
solute necessity. I have always insisted on it 
with my private pupils. I have had a large 
studio, seating 150 or 200, and generally have 
had a musical once a week, the pupils inviting 
their parents and friends. There is nothing 
which will take the place of the routine of play- 
ing before others. The only way to learn to 
play in public is — to play. Pupils who play 
their pieces correctly and well for me, will 
make shocking mistakes and go all to pieces 
through sheer nervousness, if playing for the 

104 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

first time in a musicale. They soon get used 
to it however. Even three or four perform- 
ances during the season will be of great benefit. 


In regard to technical training there are 
certain principles underlying all correct teach- 
ing and playing. I do not believe in any spe- 
cial method. It is so easy to make a method, 
if certain phases are held up and magnified, 
to the exclusion of other phases of the subject. 
There are so many sides to be considered ; they 
should all be viewed in the right perspective, 
and in just relation to each other. It is dif- 
ficult even to speak of certain sides, for fear 
of seeming to neglect other phases which are 
equally important. 

"Perhaps the three most important princi- 
ples are: Position, Condition, Action. The 
first presents the least difficulty. With the 
second we are first concerned when a new pupil 
is taken in hand. There is usually stiffness. 
It may be that nothing can be done till the 
pupil learns to relax shoulders and arms. Then 
we come to the piano and touch single tones, 
using relaxed arm weight and a single finger. 
There are three different ways of touching a 
key; we can hit it, press it, or fall on it. The 

Ernest Hutcheson 105 

first, of course, is harsh; the second term is 
sometimes misleading. Playing with relaxed 
weight of arm and a firm finger seems to ex- 
press the idea. My old teacher in Leipsic, 
Zwintcher, used to say legato touch was like 
walking. As in that movement the weight of 
the body is transferred from one foot to an- 
other, as we take each step, so in playing a 
smooth legato on the piano, the weight of hand 
and arm goes easily from one finger to the next 
as we proceed. 


"When easy, relaxed conditions of arm, 
elbow and wrist are understood, we secure an 
arched position of the hand, with rounded fin- 
gers. The latter are not to be straightened 
when lifted, as some are inclined to do, but 
should preserve their rounded shape. In all 
the earlier stages of piano study there must be 
decided finger action, with fingers kept at a 
medium height above the keys. A too high 
lift may cause strained conditions and hard 
tone ; a too low position will not give a sufficient 
clearness and development. 

"There are various forms of staccato touch; 
one is the drawing in of the finger, giving 
brilliancy and delicacy. 

106 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

"In chord playing there are many touches, 
the one chosen depending on the character of 
the passage. We can use down-arm action, 
with great weight, or hand action at the wrist, 
or up-arm touch, always taking care to keep 
unemployed fingers out of harm's way." Mr. 
Hutcheson illustrated with a few measures of 
a Chopin Prelude, a Beethoven Sonata and the 
Schumann Grillen. 

"For octaves, after the arched position of 
the hand has been formed the great point 
seems to be to touch the white keys up near the 
black ones, so that the hand shall not zig-zag 
in and out, but preserve an even line in play- 
ing both black and white keys, always keep- 
ing the other ringers out of harm's way, by 
holding them up." 

Thoughts on Interpretation 


"Interpretation has two aspects, an objec- 
tive and a subjective. Imagine several fine 
orators reading the soliloquy from Hamlet. 
In many respects their versions would be iden- 
tical; all would presumably pronounce the 
words correctly, give the right accents to 
strong syllables, punctuate intelligibly so that 

Ernest Hutcheson 107 

the sense and construction of the speech would 
be clear; all would employ certain inflections 
of tone and rhythm in their effort to express 
the ideas of the author. That is objective in- 

"But each individual orator would prob- 
ably go farther. He would hardly fail to 
add touches peculiar to himself: heightened 
stresses, delicate shades of voice, a barely per- 
ceptible dwelling on chosen words, gestures 
prompted by his own feeling; in short, he 
would endeavor to add his mental and emo- 
tional force, which we may call his artistic per- 
sonality, to that of Shakspere. This is sub- 
jective interpretation. No greater mistake 
could be made than to suppose that there is a 
latent antagonism between the objective and 
subjective sides. It is so in music also; the 
most 'original' rendering of any work may at 
the same time show infinite care of the com- 
poser's intentions. 


"One of the most harmful prejudices in re- 
gard to interpretation is the prevalent idea 
that one takes a 'liberty' in adding inflection 
and rubato not directly prescribed by the 
author. This is an absurdity, for any per- 

108 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

formance devoid of such enrichment will in- 
evitably be dry and mechanical, and the most 
unpardonable liberty one could possibly be 
guilty of toward a composer is to make his 
music sound mechanical. Hardly less is the 
suggestion often made to students that, while 
rubato may appropriately be used in playing 
Chopin and Schumann, it is out of place in 
Bach and Beethoven. The truth is that the 
degree of rubato necessary to a beautiful per- 
formance depends entirely on the character of 
the work itself, not on the name of the writer 
or the date of composition. Many of Chopin's 
and Schumann's works would be ruined by a 
lavish employment of rubato,, and many Fan- 
tasias of Bach and slow movements of Bee- 
thoven call for as much rhythmical freedom as 
any modern nocturne or romance. These 
prejudices, for that matter, are even histori- 
cally wrong; the old masters all used rubato, 
and Beethoven's playing, as far as we can 
judge from reports of his contemporaries, was 
so extraordinarily free that in all probability it 
would have been a severe shock to audiences 
and critics of the present day. Flexibility of 
rhythm, in fact, is and always has been as 
logical and correct a means of interpretation 

Ernest Hutcheson 109 

as any other, provided always that it be dic- 
tated by artistic sense, not by caprice. 


"Rhythm is but one element of interpreta- 
tion. Chief among the others are Tone, in- 
cluding accent and shading, Phrasing and 
Pedaling. In all of these we shall find the 
same necessity of exercising our own taste and 
judgment. The composer directly indicates 
his essential wishes; others he implies; other 
points again he leaves entirely to the player's 
discretion. For instance, the author very 
rarely suggests, except by implication, a dif- 
ference of tone between melody and accom- 
paniment, yet even a beginner strongly feels 
the obligation of a marked difference of qual- 
ity or volume. 

"In phrasing, precisely the same principles 
apply to classical and modern works, but the 
usage of the classics in regard to legato-slurs 
differs very widely from that of the moderns. 
It is necessary, therefore, to interpret phras- 
ing in the light of the composer's idiom. 
Roughly speaking, it might be said that in 
classical usage the end of a slur does not neces- 
sarily involve an interruption of the legato, 
while in modern usage (particularly that of 

110 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

— — - — r 

Chopin) the presence of a slur does not always 
preclude such breaks. 


"As for pedaling signs, the convention un- 
der which they are employed is radically in- 
correct, and accordingly we have to displace 
or 'syncopate' every sign in order to realize the 
writer's intention. Nor is this by any means 
the only demand customarily made on our in- 
telligence. Beethoven, for example, wrote for 
an instrument of very small resonance as com- 
pared with a modern Steinway. We are told 
that he played the entire theme of the second 
movement of his C minor Concerto without 
lifting the damper pedal; a similar perform- 
ance on a piano of to-day would have the most 
disastrous results. 

"While all musical notation, except the 
mere notation of pitch, is limited and inac- 
curate, that of the pedal is peculiarly inade- 
quate, and the ear, our only safe guide, must 
constantly be invoked. The use of the soft 
pedal is almost always left to the native sense 
of the pianist; and the sostenuto pedal, found 
only on instruments of American make, has 
been practically ignored by living composers. 

Ernest Hutcheson 111 


"The character of a piece is always the real 
key to its interpretation. We should be care- 
ful to seek the essential meaning, not merely 
display the outward form. Let me give a few 
instances. In the Berceuse of Chopin the per- 
vading spirit is tenderness, soothingness, the 
song of mother-love; the conspicuous orna- 
mentation is only incidental and should be 
veiled, not insisted on; the suggestion (in the 
left hand) of a persistently rocking cradle is 
wholly external and should never 'creak.' 
Take the same composer's Funeral March; 
here the true character is that of dull, sullen 
grief, rising to anguish, relieved by hope or 
sweet memories; the hint of tolling bells and 
pageantry of woe is material, not spiritual, and 
should be kept in the background. I once 
knew a lady who 'quite distinctly saw the car- 
riage wheels go round' when she heard this 
tragedy of tone ! Again, look at the Etude in 
F minor, op. 25, No. 1. This is a tiny gem 
which might be compared to a wandering and 
wistful breeze, elusive, remote; it should be 
played in that mood, not as a study in speed 
and cross-rhythms. Is there any 'moonlight' 
in the C sharp minor Sonata of Beethoven? 

112 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

Heaven forbid ! It shows us a dark, tormented 
soul which finds fleeting peace in the Inter- 
mezzo, that 'flower between two abysses,' and 
drives on to a tempest of despair in the Finale. 

"It is an excellent exercise in interpretation 
thus to take a composition, or more often a 
single theme, and attempt to describe its char- 
acter in a few words. This does not mean to 
fit a story to it, to impose on it attributes not 
necessarily inherent, but simply to fix its indis- 
putable qualities in the mind as a key to the 
right feeling. 

"Let it not be thought, however, that the 
right feeling for music will alone insure good 
interpretation. The deepest feelings often fail 
to find adequate expression; concealed in the 
player's mind, they reach no listening ear. The 
mission of the interpretative artist is to com- 
municate music, as he feels it, to others. Our 
Anglo-Saxon temperament always labors un- 
der the artistic disadvantage of a deep-rooted 
reluctance to show emotion. But emotion 
must be shown to be shared, and this, I think, 
is in substance what we usually mean in speak- 
ing of musical 'expression.' I am far from 
decrying the sensuous and intellectual elements 
of interpretation, though it seems that our 
modern world derives little satisfaction from 

Ernest Hutcheson 113 

these elements when unaccompanied by poetic 
fervor, and on the other hand will forgive many 
offenses if once persuaded that a strong imagi- 
native impulse sways its performers. 



If Mr. Virgil were asked for what particu- 
lar title he would wish to be known to posterity 
his answer would surely be "as a musical edu- 
cator." To the cause of Education in Music 
he has consecrated his life. 

It may be of interest to the army of teach- 
ers and players who use the clavier, who have 
found such benefit in the method of piano tech- 
nic and study combined with it, to know a few 
facts in the career of the inventor of this re- / 
markable instrument. 

Almon Kincaid Virgil is a native of Erie, 
Penn. His father practiced law until middle 
life, then studied theology and became a Bap- 
tist minister. He was a highly educated man, 
with an intense love for music, and much nat- 
ural ability for it. His son Almon was taught 
to play both 'cello and organ at a very early 
age; while occupied with school work, he de- 


oAj vww i&mmigJb ^*Ua* — ■^JasiH.'iJU*, (^^, 


Mr. and Mrs. A. K. Virgil 115 

voted much time to music. After graduating 
from a seminary, he entered college, but later 
was forced to relinquish his studies on account 
of ill health. To please his father he then took 
up the study of law at the Albany Law School; 
but as all his interests tended toward the study 
and teaching of music, he soon gave up all 
thought of being a lawyer. 

In his early twenties A. K. Virgil, through 
the influence of a College President with whom 
he came in touch, became deeply interested in 
the study of psychology, and its application to 
correct educational principles in the study of 
music. From that period he has been a con- 
stant student of this subject. 



When young Virgil began — over fifty years 
ago in a western town — to teach music, he dis- 
covered that most piano pupils had very little 
idea of what they were trying to do or what 
they were aiming at. Even then he felt that 
the study of music should be made as thorough 
and logical as the study of mathematics or any 
other science. He began to strive at once to 
educate pupils to think; to do one thing at a 
time and do it thoroughly — to do nothing with- 
out correct thinking. His desire was to train 


116 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

the mental and physical powers to form a per- 
fect, well-balanced whole. 

He discovered in those early days, that the 
average pupil had a very uncertain touch and 
poor key-connection. Some tones were likely 
to overlap, while others would be disconnected. 
He felt that if attention could be concentrated 
on a pure legato effect, away from, or quite 
apart from musical sound, both touch and tone 
would be greatly improved. 

Two keys abstracted from an old piano 
served for an experiment he had in mind. 
When the inventor had arranged the action of 
these two keys to his satisfaction, he allowed 
one or two of his pupils to practice slow trill 
exercises on them. These pupils felt the bene- 
fit almost immediately, through more exact 
movements and better piano tone. Other keys 
were soon added to the first pair, as the idea 
grew and more improvements resulted. From 
such small beginnings as these sprang the first 
early effort called the techniphone, which 
finally developed into the Practice Clavier, and 
then into the perfected instrument we now 

At the root of all this thought and experi- 
ment was the vital idea to awaken musical in- 
telligence in the mind of the pupil, and pre- 

Mr. and Mrs. A. K. Virgil 117 

vent so much indifferent, shiftless, aimless 
practice. For it is impossible to accomplish 
anything on the clavier without thought. A 
second idea of equal importance was to sepa- 
rate, for a time, the so-called mechanical side 
of piano study from the musical side; in other 
words to prepare fingers, hands and arms for 
the work they were to perform, before attempt- 
ing that work. In every branch of labor the 
artisan must fit himself for his task before un- 
dertaking it ; why should not the pianist do the 
same? Such a logical division of labor reduces 
measurably the time required to gain control of 
physical and mental forces. 

It would seem both sensible and normal to 
begin one's musical studies in a way to gain 
the quickest results. But finger and arm prep- 
aration away from the keyboard had been little 
thought of. The very idea of moving fingers 
and playing exercises on a table or toneless 
instrument was considered detrimental. No, — 
tone must be heard ; there could be no playing 
without tone. The fact that better and purer 
tones could be produced as the result of proper 
preparation, was difficult for teacher or stu- 
dent to grasp or believe. 

Thus an uphill path lay before the inventor, 
to convince others his ideas were sound and 

118 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

sensible. It has been a long and arduous strug- 
gle, but it has not been in vain. The results 
for good have been wide and far-reaching. 
Many have come to realize the truth of the 
principle he has preached and taught for so 
many years ; countless students have been bene- 
fited, — many teachers all over America and 
also in Europe have been able to teach along 
scientific lines, — have learned what it is to have 
something definite to teach. 


Mr. Virgil and his wife — formerly Miss 
Florence Dodd of London, who so ably assists 
him in his musical and educational labors — 
called at my studio recently. They had just 
arrived in New York after completing a suc- 
cessful year of musical activity in St. Peters- 
burg, Florida, where they have established a 
music school, which is already in a very flour- 
ishing condition, with a large number of pupils 

"As yet we have done all the teaching our- 
selves," said Mrs. Virgil. "You can get an 
idea of what that means when I tell you I be- 
gin at half past seven in the morning and teach 
right through the day till into the evening. It 
is absolutely virgin soil down there; they wel- 

Mr. and Mrs. A. K. Virgil 119 

come our work with open mind and are eager 
for it. We are training some young teachers 
now, who will soon assist us in the work." 

"We believe in teaching music and piano 
playing on educational principles," said Mr. 
Virgil. "The trouble seems to be that musi- 
cians are not educators, therefore they do not 
teach music along educational lines, nor with 
the same thoroughness used for other educa- 
tional subjects. We feel this is quite a false 
view to take of music study. The foundation 
must be well laid if good results are to follow, 
and the only logical time to do this is at the be- 
ginning. Many teachers do not insist on this ; 
there is truly great room for reform in music 
teaching. Personally we are using time, 
energy and all our skill to institute and spread 
these necessary reforms as far as we are able. 

"There is one point on which I feel very 
strongly. A great deal of harm is being done 
by some artists who are not educators but who 
are besieged for lessons because of their great 
success on the concert platform. Their teach- 
ing experience includes nothing more than 
that gained from coaching advanced students 
in the interpretation of compositions. The 
harm comes when they declare that definite 
foundational study and strict technical prac- 

120 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

tice are unnecessary, for technic can be mas- 
tered through the study of compositions. Art- 
ists who insist there is no need for special tech- 
nical study — doubtless through ignorance of 
true educational principles, or because they 
have never taught the average student — are 
thoughtlessly doing harm to students the world 

"For their part, the students are eager to 
catch at this advice, for they usually wish to 
get to the top of the tree with as little effort 
as possible. When they at last awake to the 
fact they have never laid an adequate founda- 
tion to build upon, the awakening is a sad one. 
For they find it disastrous to try to build up a 
repertoire without a foundation. 

"Fifty years' teaching experience has 
brought me in touch with thousands of stu- 
dents. From what I have seen of the general 
lack of preparation I steadfastly maintain that 
thorough technical study and practice are ab- 
solutely necessary and I earnestly warn stu- 
dents against contrary advice. 

"It is true artists need not teach technic 
themselves, but I maintain they ought to con- 
sider the proper development of the faculties 
demanded in piano playing sufficiently to see 
the importance of advising students to do con- 

Mr. and Mrs. A. K. Virgil 121 

sistent foundational work. I am thankful 
there are some artists who do this. 

"When correct playing habits have been 
established and a certain amount of technical 
skill has been positively acquired, and the stu- 
dent has mastered the principal technical 
forms, he can dispense with the stacks of etudes 
which some teachers deem necessary. He can 
economize time by devoting himself to compo- 
sitions of real musical value, to be included in 
a permanent repertoire. But I maintain that 
even advanced students should give some time 
each day to direct technical study. 

"Some of those who now decry technical 
study forget what they did in early years to 
acquire their high pianistic skill. Others are 
endowed by nature with such wonderful genius 
and natural physical adaptability to the re- 
quirements of the piano that they have been 
able to dispense with much of the technical 
practice indispensable to the average student." 


"We feel," supplemented Mrs. Virgil, 
"there is an important field for musical edu- 
cators of understanding and ability in bridging 
over, as it were, the wide gap between the 
foundation of music study and the stage where 


122 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

the student is ready for the artist teacher. A 
pupil may have started aright and laid a cor- 
rect foundation, but if the succeeding steps 
are not logically taken, precepts which were so 
carefully inculcated in the beginning are neg- 
lected and forgotten. So there is an ever- 
increasing demand for intermediate teachers, 
who understand the principles of a thorough 
educational foundation, and can apply those 
principles to pieces of various degrees of dif- 
ficulty. This naturally includes a large ac- 
quaintance with musical literature, as well as 
much experience in teaching. I might call 
such an arrangement a division of labor, 
though the expression smacks a bit of the 

"live weight'" 

'We hear a great deal in these days about 
the 'dead weight principle.' Mr. Virgil and I 
have always taught the principle of weight, but 
we prefer to call it the 'live weight principle,' 
for it is really vital and alive. It is of course 
the principle of relaxation, properly applied 
and adjusted. When you want great depth 
of tone you let down all the relaxed weight you 
have; if you wish softer effects some of the 
weight is suspended, held back, suppressed. 

Mr. and Mrs. A. K. Virgil 123 

We teach easy relaxed movements from the 
start. The child must learn to do everything 
easily and gracefully, if it be only standing, 
walking, or entering a room. For it cannot 
be expected that a child who is stiff and awk- 
ward in everything else, can suddenly become 
easy and graceful at the piano without proper 


Music study based upon true educational 
principles is most assuredly character build- 
ing" remarked Mr. Virgil. "The successful 
piano student must have purpose, perseverance 
and will power ; but these qualities, w ith many 
students, are apparently lacking in the begin- 
ning. It is quite wonderful, however, what 
persistent effort on the part of the teacher will 
do to arouse the power of thought and deter- 
mination in his students." 


"And this is just where the clavier, properly 
employed, becomes such an important ally," 
interposed Mrs. Virgil. "The majority of 
teachers do not half realize its value. No stu- 
dent can use the clavier under intelligent guid- 
ance, without developing mental control. Ex- 

124 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

perience has taught me that the average stu- 
dent will play far more musically if he divides 
his practice between clavier and piano, than if 
he uses the piano exclusively, — this is to say, 
provided attention is given to ear-training and 
he is taught to listen to his own playing when 
he uses the piano. With the average student, 
use of tone the entire time tends to dull his 
musical sensibilities. We find that musically 
gifted students need the clavier just as much 
as others who are less highly endowed. Con- 
stant appeal to the emotional sense through 
tone is very taxing upon the physical condi- 
tion; gifted students are apt to work a great 
deal more through their emotions than through 
their intelligence." 

"Yes," added Mr. Virgil, "and you remem- 
ber what Professor Butler has said : 'Develop- 
ment through the emotions is ultimate weak- 
ness; development through the intelligence is 
ultimate strength.' " 

Volumes might be written about the work 
of these earnest educators and their efforts 
toward musical preparedness and efficiency. 
They have accomplished much and the results 
of their labors are spreading in ever-widening 
circles, with ever-increasing influence. 




Each year adds to the fame of our greatest 
American composer, Edward MacDowell. As 
his music is more frequently heard, it becomes 
better understood and loved. The various 
clubs bearing the composer's name, scattered 
over the country, are doing their share to fa- 
miliarize people with his music. Perhaps the 
most potent factor in spreading this familiar- 
ity is the work which Mrs. MacDowell, widow 
of the composer, is doing. For the past five 
years she has traveled over the length and 
breadth of the land — "from coast to coast" — 
bearing her sweet message of harmony and 
beauty. As she ministered to her distinguished 
husband, with the most unselfish devotion, dur- 
ing his life, so she has consecrated her time and 
talents to the work of spreading broadcast a 
better understanding of his music, and to the 
upbuilding of the Peterborough Memorial, 


126 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

which, mainly through her untiring efforts, has 
come to be a source of help and inspiration to 
many an artist. 

While Edward MacDowelFs fame in the fu- 
ture will rest on his many valuable contribu- 
tions to musical literature, we do not forget 
he was a brilliant pianist and considered a great 
teacher. He had the gift of imparting, and 
numbered among his students some of excep- 
tional talent; musicians who are now making 
an honorable career in the profession. 

In regard to MacDowelFs ideals of teaching 
and piano study, no one could speak with more 
knowledge and authority than Mrs. MacDow- 
ell herself, who studied very seriously with the 
composer for four years. She has been will- 
ing to give some of her valuable time, between 
lecture recital engagements, to a conference on 
these subjects, which is here set down with all 
possible accuracy. 

"I began to study the piano when I was 
ten, though I had picked out many little things 
for myself before that time," began Mrs. Mac- 
Dowell. "My first and only teacher in 
America was a favorite aunt, who, owing to 
changes of fortune, had come to New York 
from her home in the South. She was half 
French, a Jumel, — doubtless one of the orig- 

Photograph by Davis <t San ford 

Edward MacDowfll 

Edward Macdowell, as Teacher 127 

inal family — and was really a remarkable 
woman. She was a fine musician, and was able 
within one year to make a place for herself 
here, and obtain a large fee for lessons, some- 
thing unusual for a woman to do in those early 

4 'My aunt evidently felt I had some talent 
that was worth while cultivating, for she took 
me in hand and taught me thoroughly, for four 
years. After that I worked by myself for sev- 
eral years, until, under stress of circumstances, 
it was decided for me to make music my pro- 
fession, and I went abroad to continue my 

"My goal was Frankfort, and my desire was 
to become a pupil of Clara Schumann. Her 
daughters acted as Vorbereiters for their fa- 
mous mother. I learned they were slow, heavy 
and pedantic, without having inherited the 
gifts of their distinguished parents. Raff, 
Director of the Conservatory, seeing how mat- 
ters stood, said it would be so much better if 
I could study with a teacher who could speak 
English, and mentioned the young American, 
Edward MacDowell, who was then just finish- 
ing his studies with Raff. I consented to try 
this plan for six months, though I confess I 
was not eager to come to Europe to study with 


128 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

an American teacher; neither was the young 
professor anxious to accept pupils from his 
own country. However I began. My teacher 
put me through a very severe course of train- 
ing. He has since confessed that he never 
would administer such Spartan treatment to 
any one else. He gave no pieces, but many 
etudes and much Bach. At the end of the half 
year, I was free to go to another teacher — to 
Mme. Schumann if I wished. But I had 
enough good common sense to see that I had 
made astonishing progress, much greater prog- 
ress than other students. So I wisely decided 
to remain with my American teacher. 

"We were both working very hard, each in 
our own way, without thought of any senti- 
ment between us. I well remember my first 
piece, after almost a year's study. It was the 
Bach A minor Prelude and Fugue, transcribed 
by Liszt. 



What teaching material did Mr. Mac- 
Dowell use, you ask? I studied Czerny, Hel- 
ler, Cramer (the original, not the Billow edi- 
tion), Clementi's Gradus, and plenty of Bach, 
the smaller pieces, Inventions and so on. Mr. 
MacDowell did not give a great many tech- 

Edward Macdowell, as Teacher 129 

nical forms outside of etudes. His idea was 
that scales and arpeggios need great concen- 
tration in order to render their practice bene- 
ficial. Many students cannot concentrate suf- 
ficiently, in which case they are apt to lose time 
over these forms. I mean to say they will prac- 
tice scales better if they are interestingly 
treated in an etude than when they are studied 

"This was his idea. But Mr. MacDowell 
never claimed he was always right in his views, 
never felt his way was the only way. He was 
ever broad minded in such matters. He would 
say, 'I do not work just that way,' or 'I do not 
see it in your light, but yours may be just as 
good a way as mine.' He had not very much 
use for so-called piano methods ; he said there 
was some good in each, but would not con- 
fine himself to any one. He felt that as there 
were so many degrees of intelligence, so many 
sorts of hands, a different method was required 
for each mentality. He did not always adopt 
the Leschetizky idea of an arched hand — at 
least for small ones like mine. A principle of 
his was to develop the muscles of the palm of 
the hand. 


130 Piano Mastery — Second Series 


"This principle is one I have never heard 
spoken of; he made a great point of it. The 
under muscles are delicate, and care should be 
taken not to strain them; but with judicious 
training much strength of hand and ringers can 
be acquired through development of these mus- 
cles. In my own case, I attribute the ability 
to regain my technic quickly to this particular 

"After my marriage to Mr. MacDowell, I 
relinquished all thought of making a career, 
although he felt I had the necessary talent and 
ability. For fifteen years I scarcely touched 
the piano. I felt it more important to de- 
vote myself to caring for him, saving his time 
in many ways and shielding him from unnec- 
essary cares. Then I took up my music after 
he passed away, and taught for five years. I 
have now had five years in the lecture recital 

"For this work I needed to regain my tech- 
nic, and what is more, to keep it up. I find 
some of my husband's exercises employing the 
palm or under muscles of the hand most bene- 
ficial. Here are a few of them." Mrs. Mac- 
Dowell sat down at the piano, and laying her 

Edward Macdowell, as Teacher 131 

outstretched hand on the keys without depress- 
ing them, raised the fingers singly and in pairs, 
and let them fall softly on their keys, without 
in the least disturbing or pressing the other 
fingers lying at rest. The fifth finger was 
especially spoken of as needing this exercise. 

"I practice pieces with this kind of touch," 
commented the speaker, "when I go over them 
for technical purposes. 


"One of Mr. MacDowelPs ideas was to 
practice softly, with outstretched fingers. This 
did not mean to the exclusion of other forms 
of touch, else the player might lose force and 
vitality of tone. You remind me that William 
H. Sherwood also advised soft tone for prac- 

"Another quality of tone is secured by a 
slight drawing in of the finger tips. I was 
told the other day, by a pedagogical authority, 
that this touch was no longer in use — was quite 
out of date. I am glad to know that you and 
others use it, and that various well-known 
artists approve of it. 

132 Piano Mastery — Second Series 


"I do my memorizing away from the piano, 
and in several ways. Perhaps the most effec- 
tive way is the mental photograph I make of 
the printed page. I can really see the notes 
before me. I can also recite them, thinking 
or speaking the two staves together, vertically, 
not one and then the other, singly. I think one 
should thoroughly know the piece in various 
ways, otherwise one may meet disaster when 
playing in public. 



A very helpful means of study — the fort- 
nightly class, gave zest to the student's work. 
These classes were regular lessons, of course; 
in them the student was expected to play a 
piece through, in a semi-public manner. He 
was not obliged to memorize, though he could, 
if he wished, play without the notes. The idea 
was to go through the piece before others, so 
that the master himself could judge of the 
effect. Students usually brought something 
they had been recently working on in the alter- 
nate private lesson, or they might be asked to 
play a selection that had been laid aside for a 
few months, and needed review. 

Edward Macdowell, as Teacher 133 


"Mr. MacDowell had a strong theory that 
the pupil should use his own innate musical 
and rhythmic feeling to get at the meaning of 
the piece. He sometimes gave a composition 
of his own to two pupils at the same time, to 
see how they would work it out. He preferred 
to have them express their own individuality, if 
they did not offend against any musical law. 
The first lesson on a piece was always devoted 
to the technical side ; after that came the inter- 
pretation. ^J 

"In my recital work, I am always asked to 
play MacDowell's music; this is quite to be 
expected. I have a vivid memory of how he 
played his compositions, and I believe I am 
better able than any one else to give an ade- 
quate idea of his own desire as to its interpre- 




It has been truly said of Ruth Deyo that 
she has every attribute of a great pianist. 
Technic indeed, of the sort that is "an art in 
itself," temperament, a strong musical nature, 
and a something that appeals to an audience 
and compels sympathetic attention. You may 
call this something personal magnetism, or per- 
sonality or what you will. But it holds the 
listener to the mental picture or the series of 
emotional states which are being depicted at 
the piano and through which we must live with 
the pianist. A recital by Ruth Deyo is a rich 
intellectual and emotional experience, and if 
the pieces happen to be by her master, Edward 
MacDowell, the occasion is truly a feast to the 
lover of his music. 

MacDowell, who took deepest interest in 
her, felt that she really possessed the divine 
spark. He sent her to Europe, where she 
studied for some time, making her debut in a 


Ruth Deyo 135 

recital in Berlin, with tremendous success. She 
received advice and encouragement from such 
musicians as Paderewski, d'Indy, Busoni, Car- 
reno, Bauer, and later from her admired 
friend, Charles Martin Loeffler. 

Everywhere she has played, both in Europe 
and America, Ruth Deyo has won high praise. 
A recent program consisting entirely of Mac- 
Dowell's compositions, was given before the 
MacDowell Club of New York, and was re- 
ceived by the large audience of musicians with 
the highest approval. If Miss Deyo did noth- 
ing else but give her time and talents to mak- 
ing the music of our greatest composer known 
from one end of the land to the other, she 
would be doing a wonderful and uplifting 

But Ruth Deyo is not alone a highly trained 
interpreter, she is a creative musician as well. 
As a small girl she gave a recital of her own 
compositions at the World's Fair in Chicago. 
She has already produced interesting pieces for 
her instrument; we shall hope to become fa- 
miliar with more of her work in the future. 

Let us listen while Miss Deyo tells us a little 
about her studies and her ideas of musical 

136 Piano Mastery — Second Series 


"I began to play by ear when I was two and 
a half and to improvise when I was three, — 
of course not knowing the notes, nor having 
the least idea of what I was doing. All I did 
know was that to sit at the piano made me 
happy and seemed even more natural than 
playing with dolls. 

"I wanted to reach the pedals and being 
quite too small for this, I tried to obviate^the*^" 
difficulty by sitting in a low rocking-chair with 
my hands far above me on the keys. My fa- 
ther, seeing this, took pity on me and had an 
extension pedal made, — the kind Josef Hof- 
mann used when he made his tours as a small 

"My parents would not allow me to be ex- 
ploited as a Wunder Kind so I played in 
public only occasionally and then only for 
charity. I was allowed to give a recital of my 
own compositions at the World's Fair in Chi- 
cago, but aside from this I was kept out of 
doors a great deal and lived as healthy a life 
as possible. 

"Any talent which develops at a very early 
age needs much guarding, otherwise it may 
burn itself out before it has a chance to ma- 

Ruth Deyo 137 

ture. My parents wisely understood that true 
artistic development must be gradual and not 
too meteoric and their understanding of what I 
needed made all possible difference to my early 
life and saved me from much that I might have 
had to undo later on. 


"When I was ten, I studied with Dr. 
William Mason, which instruction gave me an 
invaluable foundation. 

"I had been away from New York for some 
time and was playing in Steinway Hall when 
he happened to walk down the corridor. He 
said to the friend who was with him: 'I know 
that is Ruth Deyo; I haven't heard her for a 
long time, but I recognize her touch. Only one 
who plays from the scapula can get such a 
pure tone.' He then came into the room. I 
was of course delighted to see him, for I had 
always looked up to him with a kind of worship 
as a child, and I was much touched that he 
recognized my playing. 

"I was fifteen when I went to MacDowell. 
His teaching was very suggestive. His con- 
ceptions were big and his interpretative sense 
exceedingly fine. He was a very severe task- 

138 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

master and he put me through a rigid course of 
technical training. 

"He would not allow me to play anything 
but exercises for two months after I began my 
work with him. He rarely ever complimented, 
but scolded me a great deal. In fact, I never 
knew how much confidence he had in my future 
nor what he really thought of my playing until 
the last lesson I had from him, after having 
studied with him for two years. 

"(It seems he told my father very frankly 
his opinion, but kept it carefully hidden from 

"At the final meeting of his Artist's Class 
which was given at Columbia, I played the 
Schumann F sharp minor Sonata. I was just 
seventeen. He came to me afterward with 
tears in his eyes and let me see for the first time 
how deeply interested he was in my career and 
what faith he had had in me from the begin- 
ning. He said, 'Now you must go to Europe. 
You have studied long enough with me ; I can 
teach you nothing more,' which was typical of 
his unfailingly modest attitude toward every- 
thing he did. 

"I have always been deeply grateful to him 
for developing, to the utmost, my imaginative 
powers when I was very young. He believed 

Ruth Deyo 139 

absolutely in the necessity of putting the mu- 
sical thought of the composition before every- 
thing — that is, knowing clearly what the music 
has to express and then applying the neces- 
sary technical means with which to express this. 
He was not interested in technical problems 
per se, but deeply interested in musical ones. 
Also he never made sentimental comparisons 
between the arts, which unfortunately he has 
often been accused of doing. He was too 
simple and sincere a nature to have such a 


"I feel it essential to make one's equipment 
so good that the musical idea to be expressed 
can be said truly and directly without the in- 
terference of poor mechanism. It is necessary 
to keep in mind the fact that technic is a 'means 
to an end' and only a means. Not merely to 
say this and theorize about it; but to live it 
and prove it in one's artistic life. 

"There is, in music, an inescapable need of 
two things to produce good music, either as 
an interpreter or as a composer. These two 
are: — first, scientific knowledge; second, 
highly developed intuition. The latter is a 
thing of prime importance, as it is the 'spark' 

140 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

which gives life to a composition and without 
which it is an inanimate and meaningless series 
of notes. The former is the trained mentality 
by means of which one is able to express with 
scientific accuracy, and with the least waste of 
energy, all the beauty one finds in a composi- 


"The power of 'exteriorizing' is a most im- 
portant one. I mean by that, the ability to 
give to the audience the exact impression of 
the music you desire to present to them, — 
thereby making the composition clear and in- 
telligible and not muddled, — which it is bound 
to be if you only hear it in the inner ear and 
do not put the necessary technical work on it 
to express all your inner thoughts to the 

"The only way to avoid this insidious and 
natural fault, is first to analyze the composi- 
tion with great care, as to its thematic ma- 
terial, its entire construction and so on. Then 
analyze with equal care, the technical means 
you apply to each part of the composition in 
order to bring out each special effect. Try to 
listen to yourself from the outside. You will 
find this one of the most difficult things to do 

Ruth Deyo 141 

and one of the most fatal things to neglect. 
Self criticism is the artist's safeguard and the 
moment he becomes influenced by the audi- 
ence's good opinion of him, in that moment is 
he bound to deteriorate unless he constantly 
keeps strict standards before him of what is 
artistically right. 

"An artistic career is not the path of 'roses 
all the way' that it appears to be, and as it 
should quite properly appear. The outward 
glamour of it is one of its greatest charms, but 
the inward glamour of unremitting, relentless 
work to obtain the best and most beautiful re- 
sults is really much more fascinating than all 
the outward displays of appreciation which 
honest artistic living is sure to bring. 

"All these expressions of appreciation are 
tremendous incentives and real necessities to 
the artist who is giving the best that is in him 
to create a beautiful thing for his audience and 
for his own artistic ideals. 


"This brings me to the interesting question 
of playing in public, and the necessary mental 
control in order to accomplish it. It simply 
means such a powerful and clear projection of 
the musical thought that an audience is moved 

142 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

to listen intently from beginning to end with- 
out the desire to let its mind wander to other 
topics. The artist must be convinced of what 
he is doing before he can convince an audi- 
ence ; he must entirely forget himself while oc- 
cupied with his work. The sympathetic cur- 
rent between an audience and the artist is one 
of the most inspiring things in a public career. 
I have never had this more strongly evidenced 
in my own life than when I was playing with 
the Boston Symphony Orchestra. I shall 
never forget the responsiveness of the Friday 
afternoon audience. I did not even hear a 
single cough through the whole concerto ! And 
there was that indescribable something between 
the audience, orchestra, conductor and piano 
which seemed to make them all one ; and every 
one's individuality sank in the interest of lis- 
tening to and interpreting the music. 

"This is really true artistic satisfaction, and 
nothing short of this means anything. The 
Royal Road to Art is, in spite of the necessity 
of keeping one's mind and heart open to all 
the good things the world has to offer, a very 
exacting and straight path. 

"It is, however, infinitely worth every sacri- 
fice; for the sacrifices only mean, — discarding 
the useless, destructive elements and keeping to 

Ruth Deyo 143 

those that are constructive. It is not always 
easy to do so and one does not arrive at this 
beatific state in a day ; but the struggle to gain 
it is worth every effort it costs and the rewards 
are infinitely generous if one works for the love 
of the working and without thought of immedi- 
ate or dazzling results. 


"In my opinion the aim should be to get as 
pure and 'unpiano-like' a tone as possible. By 
that I mean the necessity of getting away from 
using the ringers like mechanical hammers. 
This gives to the tone a disagreeable quality, 
and used to be, unfortunately, very often asso- 
ciated with piano playing. Happily we are 
trying to get away from this as much as pos- 
sible at the present time; and much advance 
has been made, owing to the realization of the 
fact that pressure on the keys gives a tone of 
far greater purity and beauty than striking a 
key from a distance. Such a touch may be 
employed for special reasons and certain 
effects, — but it ought to be used with great 

144 Piano Mastery — Second Series 


"The first thing to do in learning a composi- 
tion and its interpretation, is to study its mu- 
sical content and understand its construction. 
One must know what has to be accentuated 
and why; where the high lights come, the cli- 
maxes, also the unimportant parts (so called) 
though nothing in music is really unimportant. 
A very necessary part of true interpretation 
is to have respect for each voice and to give 
them all their proper value, — not to play every 
voice and every finger loud when we see / or ff 
in front of us. 

"One reason why the pianist can practice 
Bach endlessly with no mental fatigue but with 
increased delight is because of the constant in- 
terplay of many voices demanding different 
qualities of tone. It is so interesting to find 
how the voices are all woven together in a 
supremely organic fashion with no waste 


"One of the essentials of powerful playing 
or power in playing, is immediate relaxation 
after the key chord or octave has been struck. 
This quick muscular contraction and relaxa- 

Ruth Deyo 145 

tion is an entirely healthy exercise as there can 
be no strain when properly controlled and at 
the same time the possibility of producing a 
powerful tone with no fatigue is limitless. 

"Four things are essential to powerful play- 
ing: 1. Well developed and very strong fin- 
gers (arched hand is the safest position, though 
some pianists play with fingers quite flat) . 2. 
Relaxed arm. 3. Impetus made from the 
shoulder. 4. Immediate relaxation after the 
chord has been played. 

"Delicacy is obtained through loud practice, 
thereby training the fingers in these passages, 
which give them the proper background, as it 
were, and the necessary control over the 
passage. After this is done, it is possible to 
grade the tone from the loudest forte to the 
softest pianissimo, and produce a most delicate 
and at the same time clear tone which has equal 
carrying power with a note produced with more 


"To keep one's technic in order is rather a 
personal matter and to lay down rules is dif- 
ficult. My own experience has been that a 
certain amount of very concentrated practice 
,away from the piapo is one of the most valuable 

146 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

ways of keeping in good condition. Muscular 
exercises intelligently practiced are most bene- 

"It is necessary to avoid undue fatigue, also 
to keep the mind fresh, so that it does not grow 
musically stale. Also to practice the piece 
slowly and carefully with the notes ; no matter 
how well you think you know the composition 
without them." 




A man who has, according to his own ac- 
count, solved all problems of the keyboard — a 
man who, during a dozen or fifteen years of 
unremitting effort has built up for himself a 
perfect piano mechanism, is truly a unique 
figure in the pianistic world. Few artists are 
willing to make, or can substantiate such a 
claim. Even the greatest of them confess to 
some limitations; they admit there are some 
problems a little beyond their reach. The 
eminent Holland pianist believes he has solved 
them all ; he feels there is nothing on the tech- 
nical side beyond his ken. 

Mr. Sieveking tells us his piano method is 
founded on scientific principles unknown up to 
the present time. The most important of these 
is the principle of dead or relaxed weight. But 
we, in America, have for over thirty years, 
been familiar with Dr. William Mason's ex- 
position of the principle of relaxation and de- 


148 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

vitalization. Some of the most prominent 
teachers and pianists among us to-day were 
students of Mason, use his method and are 
working along the lines laid down by him. 
They cannot forget the ease and power this 
principle gave their master's playing, nor his 
beautiful touch and tone. Godowsky is a mod- 
ern master who preaches relaxed, or dead 
weight of hand and arm upon the key. It is 
the vital principle of Hofmann's wonderful 
art. A host of others have testified to its value 
and necessity — Powell, Carreno, Schnabel, 
Leginska — to say nothing of the Breithaupt 
book on weight touch. 

And now we are told that the principle of 
dead or relaxed weight has been unknown up 
to the present time! What does it all mean? 

Thus I mused as I proceeded to keep an 
appointment with Mr. Martinus Sieveking, 
who had recently arrived in this country from 
Paris. It will be remembered that he toured 
America years ago, and proved himself a bril- 
liant pianist and most excellent musician. I 
mentally resolved to settle the subject of 
weight touch with him the very first thing, be- 
fore taking up other technical points which had 
occurred to me to question him about. 

Let it be recorded at once that I came, saw, 

Martinus Sievehing 149 

and became convinced that here was one who 
had solved many if not most of the technical 
difficulties of the piano. While it may be too 
much to claim that the principle of dead weight 
has not been fully understood until now, it can 
be truthfully stated that the Dutch pianist has 
discovered a means of applying this principle 
in a manner that will improve touch and tone 
in a short time. If his directions are implicitly 
followed, the fingers will almost immediately 
become stronger while the tone will increase in 
volume and sonority. His authoritative words 
and manner bespeak the autocrat; but a man 
who has spent a good part of his life in devis- 
ing means to obtain a big, luscious tone, strong 
fingers, fluent technic, and has succeeded to a 
Remarkable degree, feels he has a right to be 
autocratic. Details of this conference will 
surely be of deep interest to teachers and stu- 
dents of the instrument. 

I found Mr. Sieveking in his spacious stu- 
dios, a man of commanding presence, winning 
manner, and speaking English fluently. Two 
grand pianos, one of foreign the other of 
American make, stood side by side in the center 
of the music room. The French instrument 
had been built for his special use ; not only were 


150 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

the keys wider, but the whole keyboard was 
tilted a little downward at the back, which he 
explained was a decided advantage. 


"You want to know about my method of 
using relaxed weight?" he began. "I will 
gladly tell you all I can; what is more, I will 
show you each step. Let us sit here at this 
piano and demonstrate as we go along." As 
he spoke he caught my hand by one finger and 
held it up to test its weight; in fact he let the 
hand hang by one finger and then by another 
as he talked. 

"Many people think they are using dead 
weight in playing, when the truth is they do 
not really understand the principle at all. I 
could mention a few pianists who do use it. 
Godowsky does to a considerable extent, Car- 
reno also. It requires absolute concentration 
from the start, until it has become so much a 
part of one's being that it is 'second nature.' 
Its use increases the volume of tone in a won- 
derful degree." 

All this time my hand had been held sus- 
pended in air; now he let go of the finger and 
the arm fell. 

"You have an understanding of the dead 

Martinus Sieveking 151 

weight in the arm ; now we will see if you can 
put it into the fingers." 

The second finger of the right hand was 
placed on the key D, in a firmly arched posi- 
tion. The other fingers were well curved and 
raised, thumb extended from the hand, and 
arm hung down naturally at the side. Mr. 
Sieveking believes in arched hand, well curved 
fingers and high, free finger action, for all tech- 
nical finger exercises. He says: "The fingers 
should be raised as high as possible (without 
strain). I insist on this important point, as 
I do not believe it possible to develop a fine 
technic without it. Sometimes the flat finger 
is employed by virtuosi to secure a beautiful 
tone, but at first the student should confine 
himself to the curved finger." 

The second finger, resting on the key D and 
supporting the entire weight of hand and arm, 
was now tested over and over, by being lifted 
high and then allowed to fall back on the key. 
Arm weight increased as thought was con- 
sciously directed to this point. 

"Perfectement! Now you see what I mean 
— now you have it ! With your arm supported 
on the tip of the second finger, play a down 
stroke with the third finger, over and over 
again, always maintaining this heavy, weighted 

152 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

feeling in the hand and arm. Of course you 
are familiar with the different sets of muscles 
which work the fingers, some of which lie on 
top and others on the underside of the arm. 
The extensors on top of the arm do the lifting, 
and as lifting is more difficult to accomplish 
than dropping or falling, we must give greater 
heed to the raising of the finger, that it may 
be done with quickness and exactness." 


Each finger in turn was now used as sup- 
port, while the one next it was exercised with 
quick up-and-down movements. No weakness 
or bending, no hesitation in movement, no lift- 
ing except in an exactly straight line were 
allowed. The stroke was made with as much 
power as possible. Every player and teacher 
knows how important it is to gain power and 
clearness, and feels the need of some sure way 
to acquire these with the right conditions. I 
had made my own experiments along these 
lines ; now it was a satisfaction to meet with a 
master who had worked them out so logically. 

"We have now done the first exercise I give 
the students who come to me. The second goes 
a step further. As you see the first step only 
employs one finger at a time ; for I consider it a 

Martinus Sieveking 153 

great mistake to play so-called five finger exer- 
cises, at first. The only sound basis for technic 
is to begin with one finger at a time. The 
second step employs two fingers in legato, but 
always with dead weight of arm, supported on 
the finger tips. We must be conscious of this 
condition at all times, which means — at first — 
constant thinking. One should also play with 
each hand alone, as concentration is a most 
important factor of all the work. 


"A player who has taken the two steps, as 
we have just done, has already the proof of 
what this method will do for him. In one hour 
I can convince him of its benefits. With two 
hours daily practice for one week, he will find 
his tone increased and his fingers appreciably 


"What about octaves?" he was asked. 

"We need strength, suppleness and rapidity 
for octaves. I have special training for octaves. 
They call into requisition the muscles of the 
forearm ; the wrist is but the hinge between the 
hand and forearm. With the hand in arched 
form, the playing fingers curved and firm, we 

154 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

cultivate each finger in turn, with quick hand 
strokes on the key. Of course, for octaves, the 
first and fifth are most important, but all fin- 
gers can come in for this sort of training. At 
first use four repetitions on each key, and play 
up and down the keyboard, at least four oc- 
taves. Use the diatonic and chromatic scales. 
After these have been learned, I have invented 
various exercises which employ 8ths, 7ths, 6ths, 
oths and 4ths, in this way," and he ran over 
these forms with the greatest ease and speed. 


"I have also many exercises for training the 
thumb in scale playing. Here is the first one : 
With the second finger on a black key and the 
arm weight suspended on it, the thumb passes 
from the white key on one side of it to the 
white key on the other side of it, the thumb 
describing an arched movement from one key 
to the other. The thumb is also trained to pass 
under all the other fingers." 

"Have you any special counsel to give in the 
matter of memorizing?" 


"In the first place, try to have the pupil learn 
something of harmony ; even a little is helpful, 

Martinus Sievehing 155 

it is better than nothing. It will enable him 
to analyze the music sufficiently to give him 
some little idea of what he is trying to play. 
Take a small portion of the piece, say two 
measures at a time, learn one hand and then 
the other. Know them so thoroughly the notes 
can be recited or written. Thus one can think 
out the piece away from the instrument. 

"I have had and now have students of great 
talent studying with me, several of them win- 
ners of the Premier Prix in Paris. They all 
testify to the benefits received from careful 
study of my exposition of the principle of dead 
weight. I have embodied these principles and 
exercises into a system ; I hope to have the work 
published later on." Mr. Sieveking took a 
book from the table and asked me to look it 
over. The text and musical illustrations were 
all written by his own hand, the former in clear, 
elegant English. 

"This is a life work," he said. "I have writ- 
ten it to aid teachers and students, for all must 
learn these principles. I have come to America 
for this purpose, leaving my home and family 
in Paris. I intend to return after accomplish- 
ing my mission here. Oh, yes, I shall con- 
certize in America; but I especially desire to 

156 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

compose. Here is a little piece, a Nocturne, 
which I began in Paris and finished in New 
York. Would you like to hear it?" 

He began to play and I was soon absorbed 
in listening to the quality of his tone, so big, 
sweet and penetrating. Once he turned to me 
naively; "Do you like it — it's nice, isn't it?" 

After a little he broke off. "I really cannot 
play on an ordinary sized keyboard, and my 
French piano is being repaired. On this one 
my fingers seem to get between the black keys 
and I can't get them out." And he held up 
those wonderful hands of his, surely the larg- 
est, most muscular and perfectly developed 
among piano hands. 

"You see that photograph of two hands?" 
pointing to a picture on the wall. "One is 
Rubinstein's, the other my own — side by side. 
They are almost identical. Rubinstein's fin- 
gers had cushions on the ends; I believe these 
are necessary to play the piano successfully. 

"Oh, yes, I use the metronome; you see I 
have one of extra size standing there." 

The Holland master is a thorough believer 
in hard work. "I condemn my pupils to hard 
labor," he says. "Technic is brains, plus 
rightly trained muscles and nerves. To ac- 

Martinus Sieveking 157 

quire a technic, keep it up and constantly im- 
prove it, should be the aim of every pianist." 


"Come down and see me next Sunday after- 
noon — there will be music," wrote Martinus 
Sieveking, the Dutch pianist and composer, 
from his sylvan retreat on Long Island. The 
invitation was alluring ; the day proved fair and 
we went. 

Mr. Sieveking had chosen to locate for the 
summer not on the shore but a little inland, 
where green lawns and shrubbery abound. 
With him were Mrs. Elliott and Miss Inez 
Elliott, a young pianist, who had studied with 
this accomplished teacher for the past ten 
years. He considers her a thorough mistress 
of his method, and as yet the only authorized 
exponent of it in this country. 

When we arrived at the villa, sounds of a 
piano met us before we reached the garden 
gate. Bach was being played with amazing 
fluency and velocity. We paused to listen and 
waited till the tones ceased before pressing 
the bell. The player responded, opened the 
door and led us at once into the parlor which 
served as his music room. It was a square 
room with several windows looking out to the 

158 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

green. On a small mantle shelf stood a few 
drawings; prominent among them a photo- 
graph of Adelina Patti, sent him in commemo- 
ration of her seventieth birthday. Two con- 
cert grands took up the major portion of the 
room, though the whole space seemed domi- 
nated by the presence of the pianist himself. 
One felt here was a big personality ; a man who 
had thought much, studied deeply, had lived 
and suffered. 

In answer to some of my questions regard- 
ing his early life and career, the artist said: 

"I was surrounded by musical influences 
from the beginning of my life. My father was 
a thoroughly trained musician, a conductor and 
composer, my mother was a singer. I have 
always lived in a musical atmosphere : I think 
this is one of the essentials if one would become 
a musician. At a very early age I began to 
play the piano; before long I began to com- 
pose. At twelve I played organ in a church. 
Later on I went to Vienna, to Leschetizky. 
The Professor took great interest in me and 
was especially kind. There were six of us, 
chosen out of a class of ninety, to be his special 
favorites; they were: Hambourg, Gabrilo- 
witsch, Goodson, Schnabel, Newcomb and 

Martinus Sieveking 159 

"After those happy student days, I concert- 
ized everywhere ; I came to America also. But 
I was not satisfied with the success I had won, 
nor with what I had achieved. I felt there 
were deeper principles underlying my art 
which I did not yet understand. So I set to 
work to discover them. The result is the 
method I have formulated, which has cost me 
fifteen years' hard labor. But I am satisfied 
with the result ; I feel I have won out ; I feel I 
have gained the correct principles of true piano 
technic. Life has been a bitter struggle at 
times. Sometimes I have had to go hungry — 
I have even had to starve ! Thank Heaven, all 
that is over; there are now no financial wor- 
ries. My aim is to benefit others with my dis- 
coveries. I want to help teachers to teach bet- 
ter and players to play better. I often give 
much time to those with talent who are unable 
to pay, yet are deserving. I want to be sur- 
rounded by talented, congenial people wher- 
ever I am." 

Yielding to our request, he began to play. 
First his Souff ranee, written three years ago, 
when his son was very ill. It expresses a 
father's anxiety for the recovery of the stricken 
one. After this Beethoven, Op. 27, No. 2, the 
"Moonlight." Then a Bach violin Gavotte, 

160 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

transcribed for piano by himself. Next some 
Chopin, and finally one of his latest composi- 
tions, a Nocturne, embodying a haunting, ap- 
pealing melody. "Women like this piece," he 
remarked, in answer to our openly expressed 
admiration. "This and the Souff ranee have, 
I think, the right to exist ; they are modern but 
not futuristic, for I cannot write in that style. 
The Nocturne is a little after the manner of 
Chopin — I quite frankly acknowledge it. It 
certainly does not copy the Polish master, for 
it is distinctly modern; but it is in his spirit. 
I wrote it while staying in a beautiful villa, 
where there was a lovely garden with flowers 
and fruit. Blue skies overhead and sunshine 
and moonlight. Who could help being influ- 
enced by such surroundings. I have tried to 
express the feelings the environment made 
upon me. Some composers write from the 
heart, like Beethoven; some from the head, like 
Strauss. Wagner expressed both head and 


A little later he brought out the MS copy 
of his method, placed it upon the piano, and we 
fell to discussing the material and doing the 
exercises. After each one had been tried he 

Martinus Sieveking 161 

would say : "Do you approve of this ? Do you 
think it will help? Is it not a good exercise? 
Any one who can play this with endurance and 
velocity has technic. These scale exercises will 
surely help everybody." 

The master constantly spoke of the dead 
weight principle — the weight of arm hanging 
on the finger tips. While all this is true, the 
term "dead weight" does not, to my mind, con- 
vey the whole truth, and may mislead the un- 
initiated. It gives no idea, for example, of the 
extreme firmness of the fingers, nor of the 
muscular energy used to depress the keys in all 
finger exercises. It is this element of energy, 
combined with arm weight, which give power 
and sonority to the tone. Sieveking insists on 
high, large movements of fingers for all tech- 
nical exercises and wants all the sonority that 
can be brought from the instrument. His 
whole mentality is built on large lines of 
thought: even his handwriting corresponds. 
Yet he can caress the keys most delicately when 
he wills to do so. 

Later in the afternoon we had tea and delici- 
ous cakes made by Miss Elliott's fair hands. 
Sieveking was genial and told many anecdotes. 
He wished me to examine the hand of his pupil 
and note its beautiful development. "She 

162 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

plays with the greatest perfection," he said. 
"You shall hear her; I insist she make a 

The blaze of a glorious sunset met our eyes 
as we all left the villa and sauntered through 
the quiet, hedge-bordered streets, flanked by 
pretty villas and gardens. Our genial host in- 
sisted on accompanying us to the train and see- 
ing us safely aboard. As he stood there on 
the little platform, waving us a farewell, his 
tall figure looming dark against the lambent 
sunset sky, the whole made an "impression" 
not to be forgotten. Had we only possessed 
the necessary gift, the scenes of the afternoon 
might have served as basis for a futuristic tone 
poem. Fortunately, or otherwise, we could 
only keep the group of mental pictures to hang 
on Memory's walls. 




To meet and talk with Marguerite Melville 
is almost equivalent to being taken directly into 
the studio of the late Theodor Leschetizky him- 
self. This gifted American was the Viennese 
master's pupil and assistant for more than six 
years; she saw him under all sorts of condi- 
tions, understood him thoroughly, and always 
knew how to "take him." She can describe the 
man, his personality, his manner of teaching, of 
treating and handling pupils, so vividly and 
inimitably, that you feel you have really been 
in the famous work-room yourself, and eye- 
witness to the happenings there. You scarcely 
know which interests you more, the keen, ana- 
lytical methods of the master, or the charming 
personality, ready wit and tact of the racon- 

Like her distinguished compatriot, Edward 
MacDowell, Marguerite Melville was born in 


164 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

New York City, of Scotch- Irish stock. Like 
him she has talent for piano playing, composi- 
tion, and pedagogy. In place of his gift for 
drawing and painting, she possesses a voice and 
the ability to sing. Well-known vocalists ad- 
vised her to specialize in singing. But she had 
the "pianistic bee in her bonnet," as she puts it, 
and chose the piano as her medium of expres- 

a "little mozabt" 

Marguerite Melville inherited music and 
lived in it from earliest recollection, as her 
father was an organist and her mother a singer. 
When little more than a child she left her na- 
tive land, as protegee of William Steinway, 
and went to Berlin to study with Dr. Jedliczka. 
This remarkable pedagogue took great inter- 
est in her studies, and used to call her "his lit- 
tle Mozart." She found him a helpful, inspir- 
ing teacher, especially on the interpretative 
side. At his death she proceeded to Vienna to 
study with Leschetizky. 

After a short period with an assistant she 
came to the master. He soon recognized in 
the young girl a rare spirit, one of the chosen. 
She relates that, contrary to others who feared 
the ordeal of lessons with the professor, she 

Marguerite Melville-Liszniewska 165 

felt like a bird let out of a cage when she got to 
him. Here was a musician she could consult 
and advise with, who understood her and ap- 
preciated her talent. Not only did she enjoy 
his personal friendship in the home, but had 
the honor to become one of his leading assist- 
ants, which post she occupied for six years. 
During her last season in Vienna, she took 
twenty-two of her pupils to the master, besides 
those he specially asked her to prepare for him. 
"I love to teach," she says ; "I feel I can under- 
stand the student's difficulties, for I have been 
through so much myself; I can help him over 
the hard places. It is often only a little stiff- 
ness here or there — in the wrong place — a lack 
of understanding, lack of sympathetic tone or 
expression; it may be but a little thing which 
stands in the way, which I am able to remove. 
I feel, too, that I can impart some of my own 
enthusiasm to the student." 

On a certain occasion we had met to discuss 
the subject of piano playing and teaching. 


"You want to talk about technic, I am sure," 
began Mme. Melville, with her charming smile. 
"Technic is such an individual thing; it seems 
to belong to each one personally. In its broad- 


166 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

est sense it is not well understood by the gen- 
eral player. For this very reason a student 
might have listened to Leschetizky and not 
have known what he was talking about. 

"There are a number of Vorbereiters in 
Vienna, but each one teaches in a different way, 
which shows there are no fixed and fast rules. 
Mme. Bree, for instance, advises high finger 
action; some of the others do not. For my 
own part I feel the best way is to fit the technic 
to individual needs. A pupil with a heavy 
hand and inert fingers needs decided, well- 
articulated finger action, in order to lighten 
up things, and develop the muscles; whereas 
the long, thin hand, with spidery fingers, may 
need opposite treatment — sometimes to hold 
the fingers down a bit, to make them cling to 
the keys and thus develop weight in them. 


One hears a great deal of talk about relaxa- 
tion, but that, too, is apt to be misunderstood. 
The pupil may think he relaxes, when his arm 
is actually quite light, showing it is not prop- 
erly loose, for a really relaxed arm is very 
heavy. The arm undoubtedly controls every- 
thing. It is the seat of power; it is what the 
diaphragm is to the singer, the basis of every- 

Marguerite Melville-Lisznietvska 167 

thing. It is the reservoir of weight. Whatever 
amount or quality of tone you want, you bring 
to bear more or less weight of arm on your fin- 
gers ; you turn on the weight through the arm, 
or turn it off, in just such quantity as you 

"Of course we cannot do without finger ac- 
tion; we must have it for the development of 
fingers and for certain effects; beginners must 
be taught it at the start. But later on we can 
get the fingers nearer the keys and thus gain 
in weight and ease of delivery, without such 
a high lift of finger. 


"To illustrate how Leschetizky suited his 
teaching to each player: He often told one 
pupil to play a passage a certain way. The 
next pupil might be advised to play the same 
passage in quite a different manner. This was 
the cause of some amusing errors on the part 
of students. One would hear another told 
exactly how to interpret a certain piece. With 
elation he thinks, 'Ah, yes, that is the way it 
should be done.' Goes home, practices the piece 
thus and so; comes to the next lesson, and is 
told that is not the way to play the piece at all. 

"When I brought my own pupils to the pro- 

168 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

fessor, I always accompanied them and sat 
near them during the ordeal. Of course they 
were often nervous, and this condition did not 
improve their performance. Sometimes the 
professor made sarcastic remarks ; their inabil- 
ity to grasp the full import of which did not 
improve the situation. I could usually pacify 
him and smooth things over for the pupil. I 
always tried to have her go right on, in spite 
of everything. If the professor was ruffled at 
her failure to apprehend his meaning, I would 
say: 'Don't expect quite so much; the pupil 
can't at once do all you require; you must be 
more humble — don't look for perfection yet.' 


"One particular day something had gone 
wrong. It was class-day, too ; a number of stu- 
dents had already assembled in the salon. 
When I came I found the master pacing up 
and down in the next room, in a rising state of 
excitement. I tried to calm him, but he utterly 
refused to be pacified. 'Very well,' I said, 'you 
surely cannot have the class to-day; I will go 
in and dismiss them. I'll tell them to come an- 
other day.' At this ultimatum, he calmed down 
instantly, went into the salon, and had never 
seemed in a more amiable, sunny mood. 

Marguerite M elville-Liszniews'ka 169 

"Of course I have witnessed some harrowing 
scenes in the studio. Leschetizky would some- 
times criticize very harshly a player whom he 
thought conceited and self satisfied. If I re- 
monstrated at such severity he would retort: 
'If a pupil cannot stand my criticism, how will 
he ever endure being flayed by the critics ? He 
must learn to stand up under rough handling.' 

"Some of the foreign students, generally — 
though not always — Americans, seemed pos- 
sessed with the idea they must get a few les- 
sons with the master before returning home, so 
they could call themselves his pupils. The Vor- 
bereiters were often besieged with undesirable 
applicants. Great tact was needed to steer 
safely around these obstacles. 

"One such case I recall. The pupil was 
really lacking in ability, but had staked all her 
hopes on having one lesson with Leschetizky. 
It had fallen to my lot to prepare her, and I 
soon found I could do little or nothing for her. 
So I explained the case to the professor, asking 
him to be easy with her for my sake. Her 
trouble was lack of rhythm — clearness also. At 
the appointed time I brought her to him. She 
seated herself at the piano with a flourish and 
began. The professor showed signs of uneasi- 

170 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

ness and soon remarked, 'You might play 

" 'Clearer than that?' she answered, as 
though he were demanding the impossible. 
Soon she was told she played wrong notes. 

" 'I assure you, professor, I have practiced 
this piece a great deal, and have never played 
wrong notes at home I' 

"I saw the premonitions of storm, so sug- 
gested the lesson should terminate at the half 
hour, as the professor had another engagement. 
The young lady was not pleased with her les- 
son, but she could at least say she had had one. 


"In regard to memorizing," continued the 
pianist, "I feel one should do it the easiest way. 
There are three factors — eye, ear and finger 
memory. To make such a mental picture of 
the printed notes that you can shut your eyes 
and see them; to hear so accurately that your 
mental ear knows them; also to feel them and 
know their position on the keyboard — all these 
should make the piece very sure. Some players 
commit their pieces in all three ways. For 
myself I can hardly say whether any one of 
these predominate. I can affirm that when I 
can play the piece I know it by heart. Musi- 

Marguerite Melville-Liszniewska 171 

cians have often told me I have a wonderful 
memory ; I can retain my music almost indefi- 
nitely. The other day, after hearing Paderew- 
ski, I came home, thinking of the pieces I used 
to play of his — Melodie, Nocturne and other 
things. I haven't seen the printed pages of 
these for years, nor played them. I went to the 
piano and found them right under my fingers, 
without a slip. This ability to retain the notes 
in mind stands me in good stead for my recital 
work, when, under stress of teaching and many 
interruptions, I am not able to secure sufficient 
time for practice. 


"In regard to foreign study for Americans, 
I do not see the reason for opposing it. They 
are obliged to learn a new language, of itself 
an education. They see new lands, learn to 
know new people, become familiar with new 
ways of living. All this broadens them and 
benefits their music. They hear quantities of 
music, opera, orchestral and chamber concerts 
and recitals, which they would never have the 
opportunity to hear at home, at the price. If 
fond of Shakespeare, they will at least see more 
of him in one season in Germany than in a life- 
time in America. These are a few reasons for 

172 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

going abroad. Conditions may be entirely dif- 
ferent hereafter; one cannot predict. 


"People often speak as though Leschetizky 
cared only to bring out the virtuosity of the 
student, to form him into a brilliant pianist. 
This was true to a certain extent, but it was 
also true that he sought to develop the musical 
side, which ought to underlie all virtuosity. 

"Here is one illustration of what I mean. It 
was the case of a little Polish boy of twelve. 
He really had a big talent, but was fond, when 
at the piano, of putting on the airs of a vir- 
tuoso. I did not prepare him for the professor 
but I knew him, as he lived in the same pension. 
When he came to play in class, he walked up 
to the piano, seated himself as though he were 
some great one, and dashed into a Chopin Polo- 
naise. He played it brilliantly, but had not 
gone more than eight measures, when Leschet- 
izky went up, took his hands off the keys and 
pushed him off the stool, saying such playing 
was nothing but Polish exaggeration, and he 
didn't want to see him again. I felt keenly for 
the little fellow, who was all broken up over 
the turn of affairs ; so I tried to pacify the pro- 
fessor, saying perhaps the stool was not quite 

Marguerite Melville-Liszniewska 173 

right, or he may have been nervous, and begged 
he might have another chance. The professor 
then turned on me, saying, 'You women, you 
must spoil everything.' I was a bit cross with 
him for his attitude toward the boy, but I can 
see now that he saw this streak of superficiality 
and exaggeration, and wanted to get it out. He 
could have done so, if he had had time to work 
with him. The boy needed several more such 
knocks. Five years later I heard him — now a 
full-fledged artist — in Copenhagen. He was 
then merely a brilliant virtuoso, entirely super- 
ficial, and seemed to me quite on the wrong 
track. That special sort of superficial exag- 
geration was what the professor tried to kill in 
the boy of twelve. 


"An instance of how Leschetizky would 
handle a susceptible pupil. He was also a Pol- 
ish lad, just over twenty, who came with his 
mother. She was devoted to him and looked 
after everything. The fellow was rather shy 
and given to blushing. The professor, of 
course, sized up his mentality and took delight 
in saying things to shock him, just to see him 
color up. Once, when he had something ex- 
pressive to play, he was asked : 

174 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

" 'How do you make love to a girl? I sup- 
pose you would say, shyly, "I love you ;" where- 
as you should say it this way — ' the professor 
struck an attitude and said the words with the 
greatest ardor. 


"Leschetizky used to say 'there are no good 
teachers, only good pupils!' There are many 
students who love music, yet work for years 
without getting beyond the clumsy, amateur- 
ish stage. They play everything on a dead level 
of monotony. It is for us as teachers to help 
such struggling ones over the intermediate 
stage to the place where they can bring some 
light and shade into their performance. I try 
to show them where and how to use variety of 
tone and accent. Sometimes I use a character- 
istic group of words that will just fit the phrase, 
and will give the right idea of stress. It is often 
in little turns and ornaments that the stu- 
dent's lack of deftness stands out. When the 
pupil played a clumsy turn, Leschetizky would 
say : 'Don't build your balcony as big as your 
house.' If the pupil asked just where to begin 
a crescendo, the professor would point to a 
leaf and answer: 'Can you see just where this 
leaf begins to curve V _y 

Marguerite Melville-Liszniewska 175 

"The longer I am in the work, the more I 
see the lack of talent for interpretation in the 
average pupil, or even in those who have more 
than the average aptitude. Perhaps not more 
than one in fifty has any sort of an idea how 
the piece should sound as a whole, without be- 
ing told. You would think they might feel 
where this part should be subdued and that 
part be brought out; where the melody should 
be prominent or a hidden theme heard, where 
a retard or pause would be effective. Why 
must they always be told these things, why 
cannot they be felt? 

"The professor never gave me special ideas 
for my own interpretation ; he seemed satisfied 
with my conception. One has to be born with 
a sense of balance — of proportion. He used 
to say, 'If you don't feel it you can't be taught 
it. Either you can play Schumann or you 

"At first I used to think I could get a great 
many ideas on interpretation by going to class 
and listening to the others. But I found he 
would treat the same piece quite differently for 
different pupils. If one took a certain read- 
ing as final, he was apt to find it changed on 
another occasion, if another pupil played the 
piece. So I gave up this idea. But when I 


176 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

began to take my own pupils to the professor 
I saw the benefit of listening, for I began tq 
appreciate the versatility of a great teacher. 


"It seems to me the principal thing in play- 
ing is tone — a beautiful, sympathetic quality, 
as near like the human voice as possible. When 
Casals plays the opening scale passage in the C 
major Prelude of the Bach Suite, as he does 
with such marvelous shading on each note, it 
is the tone which holds the audience spellbound ; 
for there is no accompaniment to take attention 
from the player. It seems to me the greatest 
art that is thinkable. 

"I always try at once to interest my pupils 
in tone study. It is a great incentive to those 
who have not formerly cared much for their 
music, or who may have lost interest in it. 
To make everything they touch beauti- 
ful, if it be only a scale or a Czerny 
study, gives zest to one's practice. I 
never allow them to hit the keys, but rather 
to press or caress them. Even chords can be 
pulled up, to draw the tone out of the piano. 
Of course the ringers must have well-developed 
action. I might say they are like perfectly 
trained little animals, that run here and there 

Marguerite M elville-Liszniewska 177 

to do our bidding; or they are the brushes with 
which we paint the pictures. 

"Music is such a beautiful art; we especially 
need it here in America, a country so full of 
the superficial, the rush of business and mate- 
rial interests. Artistic things get so easily 
pushed to the wall or crowded out of our lives. 
Even the least inclination to learn music should 
be encouraged in people of all ages. No one 
can foresee all it may mean to the individual. 
Americans are naturally artistic, the soil is re- 
ceptive, but many material things smother ar- 
tistic instincts. 

"The attitude of some toward music is not 
such as will help its cultivation. We haven't 
sufficient respect yet for the art, the artist or 
the teacher. Some think if they don't like the 
playing of this or that performer, the trouble 
is with the artist. They are not willing to be 
humble enough to learn from one who is so far 
above them in knowledge. One sees this spirit 
in students who go abroad. If in the lesson, 
Leschetizky only heard a small portion of the 
piece, and chose rather to talk and expound his 
ideas, they often grew restive, wanted to turn 
the page, get over a lot of ground — get their 
money's worth! 'You should be glad to hear 

178 Marguerite Melville-Liszniewska 

what I have to say ; it is of more value to you 
than for you to play the piece,' he would say. 

"I often hear it said of a young musician who 
has come before the public in recital, that he 
should not have ventured out yet; he was not 
ready, and so on. I feel differently. He had 
probably come to the point in his experience 
when he wanted to give out something within 
him which could no longer be repressed. For 
him it was a step forward, a test to show him 
where he stood. He no doubt will reap more 
benefit from it than will his listeners. For now 
he can advance much more surely and intelli- 




Our American-born artist, Mrs. H. H. A. 
Beach, is both a composer of high rank and a 
pianist of distinction. 

As a player, one critic has said: "She has 
many of those rare elements that conspire to 
make the true pianist. We have seldom heard 
delicacy and force, a poetic interpretation and 
a prosaic vigor so well combined. Grace, in- 
telligence and sympathy are chief characteris- 
tics of her playing." 

After years of quiet study and home life in 
Boston, followed more recently by a lengthy 
sojourn in Europe, Mrs. Beach, again at home, 
has emerged somewhat from her seclusion, and 
is now bringing the message of her own music 
to the many who are eager to hear it. Thus 
she is becoming personally known through her 
interpretative recitals and her very character- 
istic rendering of her compositions. 

As a composer Mrs. Beach is known and 


180 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

loved over the length and breadth of the land, 
for her many beautiful songs and piano pieces. 
Those who are familiar with such gems as 
Ecstasy, The Year's at the Spring, June, and 
many others may not know that the composer 
has written in the larger forms. Her Gaelic 
Symphony has been played a number of times 
by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and also 
by the symphony orchestras of many other 
cities. It has lately met with an enthusiastic 
reception in Philadelphia, under the baton of 
Stokowski. Her piano Quintet, Mass in E 
flat, Sonata for piano and violin, and her choral 
works attest the variety and scope of her cre- 
ative activities. 

Dr. Percy Goetschius says of Mrs. Beach, 
the composer: 

"She writes both like a man and a woman. 
Her music manifests traits of a delicacy and 
tenderness scarcely attainable by a masculine 
nature, and masculine traits as genuine and 
virile as any man could exhibit." If a recital 
of her works could be given without her name 
being attached, "those accustomed to proclaim 
the superiority of the male composer would 
possibly, without exception, fail to suspect they 
were listening to the artistic creations of a 

Mrs. H. H. A. Beach 181 

It had long been my desire to come into per- 
sonal touch with this rare individuality. My 
desire was realized when I was privileged to 
visit her apartments in the heart of old New 
York, which she has made her headquarters for 
the past two months. Who could help feeling 
at home in the presence of this cheery little 
lady, with her cordial handclasp, her genial 
manner, her clear blue eyes and sunny smile? 
The moments flew all too quickly as she spoke 
of her work as pianist and composer. 

"Really, I cannot remember when I did not 
play the piano and compose. I know I was 
doing both at the age of four. I improvised lit- 
tle melodies then, but did not know how to 
write them down. 

"My first piano teacher was my mother, 
with whom I studied for a number of years, 
until she felt I might be benefited by a change, 
when I was placed under well-known masters. 
I played with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, 
under Theodore Thomas, when I was still in 
short dresses, with my hair in a pigtail. I have 
kept up my piano work, and always expect to 
do so. When I am not playing I am compos- 
ing, and vice versa. I do them both inter- 
changeably and constantly, but not both at the 
same time. This keeps me fresh for each one. 



182 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

I am a dual personality and lead a double musi- 
cal life. 

"I have naturally a very flexible hand, which 
does not become stiff if practice is relaxed for 
a bit. Then I am old-fashioned enough to be- 
lieve in scales and exercises. I like to give an 
hour a day to these whenever possible. I do 
them on this little dumb keyboard, this small 
black case, which serves my purpose on trains 
and in hotels. At home in Boston I use the 
Virgil clavier, and thoroughly enjoy working 
on it. People are so fond of saying a soundless 
keyboard is mechanical ; is it any less mechani- 
cal to do your technical work on a keyboard 
with tone ? The exercises are the same. Should 
we not wish to save the wear and tear on our 
ears! My hearing is extremely sensitive, and 
I want to save it all I can. I often learn my 
pieces and all difficult passages on the clavier. 
It is a good idea to learn the Debussy Toccata 
on the clavier. Did you ever try to practice 
this piece slowly on the piano? The discords 
are so distressing they fairly hurt. The clavier 
came to my relief in this instance ; I don't be- 
lieve I ever could have learned the piece if 
I had done it all on the piano. 

"As for practice material, I use the Rosen- 
thal Technics. There are several books of 

Mrs. H. H. A. Beach 183 

ii .....ill ■■ — 

these, and I have found them excellent. Then, 
of course, I invent a good many exercises of 
my own." 

"Can you tell me something about your work 
in composition — how you do it; or is that too 
difficult a question?" 

Mrs. Beach's eyes twinkled. 

"It would be very difficult to tell how I do 
it, but I can tell you where; always in the open, 
if possible. I like to sit out of doors, I want to 
be in the midst of nature when I write. If it 
is cold or bad weather when I write I try to 
have a room with wide windows, or a balcony. 

"I cannot write unless I am in the mood, or 
have the inspiration. I cannot say to myself, 
'I will compose three hours a day.' That would 
reduce the work to mere mechanism, without 
the divine spark. A theme or subject often 
rests in my mind for months or a year before I 
put it on paper. I always compose away from 
the piano — unless it be an accompaniment that 
I want to try with the voice part, then I some- 
times take it to the piano, to see what changes 
are needed. 

"The subject for the Fugue which I played 
at my recent concert was in my thought for 
over a year before I ever jotted it down. I 
was in Switzerland at the time, We had gone 

184 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

to Meran. It was about this time last year. 
From my windows could be seen the whole 
range of snow-capped mountain peaks; the 
sight was truly enough to inspire one. I felt 
moved to put down the general plan of the 
Fugue on paper. A correct copy of the Fugue 
has not yet been made. This leaves me free to 
makes changes whenever I wish. Sometimes a 
new idea occurs to me when I am playing in 
public; I use it then and there. The Prelude 
to this Fugue was actually composed at the 
piano : I wanted to give it the character of an 
improvization, and think I have succeeded. 

"The first draft of a composition is so frag- 
mentary that it looks almost like shorthand. I 
can hardly write my thoughts down fast 
enough, and don't take time to make everything 
clear. For instance, if I have a chromatic run, 
I put the first note and the last, and draw a line 
between them, for I can't stop to write all those 
accidentals. I know what the signs mean, 
though others might not. 

"Although I like to let an idea rest quietly 
in mind for a long time, so that I can live with 
it before I put it on paper, yet sometimes I 
write it down at once, while I am in the mood. 

"Mr. Stoddard, the poet, once sent me, 
through a friend, a few verses, wondering if I 

Mrs. H. H. A. Beach 185 

could do anything with them. They arrived in 
the morning mail. I read them ; they suggested 
a musical setting. I began to work, and by 
twelve the song lay finished on my desk. 

"I have spent the last three years in Europe, 
mostly in Munich, and have done much writing, 
besides a good deal of concert work. When 
Miss Kitty Cheatham came to Munich and 
gave a recital, she asked me to do some things 
for her. I had so much work on hand that I 
could not think of it then, but told her when 
the right moment came I would see what I 
could do. Months afterward a little volume 
of verses was sent me. I glanced through 
them, and felt that here were just the things 
for Miss Cheatham. I wrote quite a set of 
these little songs, and it gave me such pleasure 
to do them. 


"I do not sit down, as some imagine I do, 
and say: 'Now I will write a concerto, a fugue, 
or some large work.' The character of that 
composition depends entirely on how the sub- 
ject works up, whether it becomes a small 
form or grows into a larger work. I love to 
work in the large forms, they are just as easy 
if not easier for me than the small ones. 

186 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

"Do not imagine, because the large forms 
come easier to me now, that I have not studied 
very seriously. I worked very hard for years. 
At the start I had one season with Junius Hill, 
in Boston, but everything beyond that has been 
my own labor. I possess about every treatise 
that has ever been written on the subject of 
harmony, theory, counterpoint, double coun- 
terpoint, fugue and instrumentation. I have 
a large library of these books. I have a good 
knowledge of French and German, and have 
made exhaustive studies of works in these lan- 
guages. I can repeat whole chapters from Ber- 
lioz' delightful book on instrumentation. 

"In studying Bach I memorized a large 
number of fugues from the Well-Tempered 
Clavichord, not for the mere sake of commit- 
ting them, but because I had made such a care- 
ful study of them. I wrote many of them out 
in score, in order to find exactly how they were 
constructed, and how the voices were led. I 
could write out the parts from memory, so thor- 
oughly did I know them. 

"In the study of instrumentation, the orches- 
tra was my teacher ; I was a close student of it. 
For obvious reasons it is difficult for a woman 
to become familiar with all instruments in use. 
Some of the largest she cannot play; in any 

Mrs. H. H. A. Beach, 187 

event it is not practical to take lessons on them 
all. But the orchestral composer must know 
the various voices of the orchestra. Thus I 
made a deep study of the band in action. I 
always had the score with me, and learned to 
know each voice as intimately as I know the 
voices of my own family. I wrote out scores 
of Beethoven from memory, and then would 
take my work next day and compare it with 
the playing of the orchestra. In this way I 
learned whole movements from symphonies by 
heart. Thus I feel that the knowledge I have 
acquired has been by my own effort ; and what 
I compose is a part of myself." 

To quote another sentence from Dr. 
Goetchius : 

"The development of her very uncommon 
talent for composition has been almost wholly 
achieved by her own effort — unaided but also 
unbiased. In consequence of this somewhat 
unique fact, she has succeeded in preserving her 
individuality to a rare degree. What she gives 
is peculiarly herself." 

The Gaelic Symphony will probably be 
heard in New York next season and we also 
hope to become more familiar with other works 
of this composer in the larger forms. 



Leo Ornstein, an ultra modern pianist and 
composer, was born in 1895 near Odessa, Rus- 
sia. After coming to America he was thor- 
oughly trained in the Leschetizky principles 
of piano playing by Mrs. Thomas Tapper, and 
in other musical studies at the Institute of 
Musical Art. Several years ago he went 
abroad for further study and recitals. He 
played in London and Norway, and had 
numerous concerts ahead when the outbreak 
of the war caused him to return to America. 

"You heard me play years ago?" began 
young Ornstein, as we were seated in my studio 
for a musical conference. "It must have been 
about five at least, if it was in the Mendelssohn, 
G minor. Did I really ever do that ? Ah, how 
long ago it seems! A lifetime appears to lie 
between that period of my life and to-day, so 
much has happened to me — I am another 


Leo Ornstein 189 

One could easily understand his feeling. For 
the student had developed into an artist, the 
fledgling into an aspiring composer, whose 
daring flights of imagination have already 
aroused much attention on both sides of the 
Atlantic. Whether, as some would have us 
believe, the startling innovations of the young 
musician are but the ravings of an unsound 
mind, or are to preach a new gospel of emo- 
tional impression and tone color; whether the 
youth is but a clever juggler with sounds, or is 
a new and brilliant star arising in the musical 
firmament, the future alone can decide. 

It can be truly said, however, that one can- 
not talk with Leo Ornstein for five minutes 
without realizing he is absolutely sincere in his 
work. His fixed purpose is to express himself 
and his age with fidelity and honesty, accord- 
ing to his lights, no matter what critics or others 
may say to the contrary. And he has the cour- 
age of his convictions, plus enthusiasm enough 
to furnish forth a dozen less buoyant and more 
sedate brothers in art. 

"The technical side of piano playing?" he 
continued; "what is technic but the means by 
which you can express yourself — it is the out- 
ward and material sign through which you are 
able to say what is in your heart to say ; there- 

190 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

_ _ -- 

fore it is subordinate, but must be individual. 
Do not think that I would for one moment be- 
little technic ; one must have it, it is a necessity ; 
but it sinks into insignificance before the mean- 
ing of the message one has to deliver. 

"As a pianist I have had most thorough and 
excellent training, I am thankful to say ; I play 
my Czerny constantly, and know my Bach 
from cover to cover. I feel Bach is the greatest 
master of all: his works will never fall into 
neglect. Still, we must realize we live in a 
different age; our customs, our manner of liv- 
ing, we ourselves are not at all like the people 
of Bach's time — or Beethoven's, or Haydn's. 
Look at Mozart; could any music mirror and 
express the spirit of his age with more charm- 
ing simplicity and fidelity? I love it; it is a 
perfect reflection of the time in which he lived. 
The technic to play Mozart, however, will not 
answer to play Debussy. Modern music re- 
quires an entirely different handling of the in- 
strument. We cannot interpret modern ideas 
with the old style equipment. To illustrate: 
none of the older composers would think of 
making such requirements on one's technic as 
this, for instance." The young artist went to 
the piano and played a succession of shadowy, 
filmy chords. "I must here use the palm of 

Leo Ornstein 191 

my hand as well as the fingers ; the former de- 
presses the white keys below, while the fingers 
touch the black keys above them. In another 
chord passage from one of my pieces, I had in 
mind the falling of blocks of granite, which 
descend softly with a muffled thud," again illus- 

As a pianist Leo Ornstein has won high 
praise from the critics. Huneker says of him : 
"He is that rare thing, an individual pianist." 
Others have written that: "his playing has 
tonal beauty and clarity of style;" that "he 
has a touch on the keys as caressing as it is 
powerful — with an almost uncanny breathing 
into and inhaling from them something of 
inspiration." "He is a born virtuoso, with an 
ear unparalleled in its sensitiveness for tone 
color and tone quality. Trills and passages are 
faultless and are delivered with a freedom and 
perfection any one might envy." 

On a later occasion Mr. Ornstein spoke more 
freely about technical development. "I have 
made a good many experiments and discoveries 
about piano touch and technic, especially when 
I was living in Paris. After being in Vienna, 
I went to Berlin and then to Paris, where I 
literally shut myself up in a garret and worked 
for about nine months. For one thing I want- 

192 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

ed to make a study of some modern French 
music, for modern tendencies absorb me 
greatly. I procured a few pieces by Debussy 
and Ravel and studied them closely. Of course 
I memorized them in a few days and played 
them a good deal. But my playing did not 
satisfy me, though I did not see what was the 
matter. All at once it came to me that I was 
trying to make tone color with my fingers, 
when it should be done with the pedals. The 
moment this truth was borne in upon me, the 
problem was solved. I began to study all man- 
ner of pedal effects and tonal coloring with the 

"In mastering piano tone and technic, the 
arm plays a vital role. Naturally, the fingers 
must be well trained, but in playing they do 
not need to be lifted high. In fact, the nearer 
they are held to the keys — provided strength 
and elasticity have been developed, the better 
the tone. Strength of finger is the great thing. 
A firm nail joint is absolutely necessary, quite 
as much for soft as for loud playing. People 
think it does not need much strength to play 
softly; I am sure the reverse is true. Fingers 
must be very strong and then held close to the 
keys, for pianissime effects, otherwise the tone 
will be mushy and uncertain. I have a whole 

Leo Ornstein 193 

set of technics for strength and agility, which 
I go through when I am away from the piano ; 
they are specially useful when traveling. Here 
is one:" he pressed one finger, firmly curved, 
into the table, and slowly rolled it from side 
to side. All fingers are to be treated in the 
same way. Another exercise for strength con- 
sisted in lifting one finger in curved position, 
as high as possible, while the other four were 
pressed down into the table with strong pres- 
sure. In neither exercise should the fingers 
yield or 'give in,' at the nail joints, but always 
preserve their rounded form. 

When practicing I use full power, or nearly 
so — play slowly and firmly. When I thor- 
oughly know the piece, I gradually go faster, 
till I have worked it up to the required tempo. 
It comes up without much trouble, when one 
thoroughly knows the notes. Many players 
make the mistake of at once playing quickly, 
after the slow practice ; I find it much better to 
acquire speed gradually. 

"It is so easy to fall into a rut in regard to 
interpretation. We grow accustomed to hear- 
ing compositions rendered in a certain way; 
any deviation from that standard startles us. 
I can feel the shock caused by novelty, go over 
an audience, when my rendition is not the con- 

194 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

ventional one of the schools. For instance, in 
the G minor Ballade of Chopin, I hold pedal 
through each of those final runs, on through to 
the chord following ; it makes a new and inter- 
esting effect. But it surprises the musicians 
sometimes, and I can see they do not consider 
it orthodox. 


"It is true that on the day of a recital, I prac- 
tice for hours — all day perhaps — but do not 
touch the pieces I am to give for my program. 
Instead, I practice many other things, often 
Bach. In this way the program seems to me 
much fresher than if I had delved on it up to 
the last moment. I play Bach a great deal; 
all the Well-Tempered Clavichord, the big or- 
gan Preludes and Fugues arranged by Liszt, 
and of course the Chromatic Fantaisie and 

"The artist's playing in public is very decep- 
tive, to the student. For the artist conceals 
the mechanism of his art, and only considers its 
emotional message before his audience. There- 
fore it is not always a real benefit to the student 
to hear a great many artists ; that is, not a bene- 
fit to his technical development, though it 
should help him on the interpretative side. 

Leo Omstein 195 

"Let me give you a few words more about 
my Paris experiences. I brought a letter of 
introduction to the famous critic and writer, 
Calvocoressi. There is a wonderful man ! He 
can speak and write eight languages — Greek is 
one of them. He writes for several English 
papers and two Russian, besides the foremost 
Paris magazines. I went to him, told him what 
I was doing, played for him and showed him 
some of my stuff. He at once spoke Russian 
to me, interested himself in me and helped me 
in a great many ways. He lectured on the 
music of Schoenberg, Stravinsky and Ornstein 
in the Sorbonne and other places. 

"You have heard the story of my London 
concerts. It was a terrible experience; I can 
laugh at it now, but then it was heartrending. 
There seemed to be two factions; those who 
were open-minded enough to listen, who wished 
to understand what I was trying to do; the 
others who closed their ears and would have 
none of me. Well-seasoned concert goers said 
they had never seen a London audience so 
stirred and upset. 

"A week after my first recital there, I gave 
a second, with an entire program of my own 
compositions. That occasion was the most try- 
ing one of my whole life. I was hardly con- 

196 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

scious of a note I played that day, but I got 
through the ordeal in some fashion. 

"I can well understand how my music must 
strike people on first hearing. Even good 
musicians can discover nothing whatever in it 
when they listen to it once; but I know many 
cases where they do see the meaning of it after 
repeated hearings. If they would but reserve 
their decision till they have heard a piece seven 
or eight times, they could judge of it better. 
It has often chanced that they understand it 
after the eighth time. You know Pelleas and 
Melisande, at its premier, was hissed off the 
stage and the curtain rung down on the second 
act. Now it is sung to sold-out houses. So I 
always feel like asking the listener to bear with 
me till after he has heard my work a few times. 
Even the Wild Mans Dance has become clear 
to some after the eighth time! 

"As you say, I must always lead up to a 
piece like that: I could never let it out of a 
clear sky, so to speak. And I must work up 
my mood also, in order to be an efficient 

"You ask about my manner of composing. 
I can say I never sit at the piano when I com- 
pose, never try the thing over as I write it, and 
never under any circumstances change a note 

Leo Ornstein 197 

of the piece after it is written ; it must stand or 
fall as first set down. Perhaps after a few days 
I may condemn what I have written T f X find 
it unworthy I say to myself: 'Leo Orii: ~-, f ?r 
shame! how could you write like that.' Then 
I tear it up. Probably I shall never make a 
second attempt on the same subject — it is gone, 
passed into oblivion. 

"The composition comes into my mind full- 
fledged and complete as far as it goes. When 
I hear it, I make frantic haste to get it to paper 
lest I lose a note. This is a difficult task, be- 
cause the rhythms are often so intricate, and 
I must preserve those as well as the harmonies. 
It is very difficult to decipher the first hasty 
draft of my pieces ; no one can do it but myself, 
for I have a sort of musical shorthand. Tonic 
and other regular chords may not be written 
in at all, but I know what they ought to be. All 
must be jotted down so quickly there is no time 
to be careful. It only took about two and a 
half hours to put the Wild Mans Dance on 
paper. Publishers are asking for more piano 
pieces ; I have composed a number, but oh, the 
task of copying them ! 

"When composing, I have often an incident 
in mind which the music is designed to illus- 
trate; yet I am averse to affixing any special 

198 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

title to the piece, as this may hamper player 
or listener, who are endeavoring to picture the 
scene or mood hinted at. To others the piece 
may suggest something entirely different from 
the picture or mood the composer had in mind 
when writing it; these may be quite as appro- 
priate and legitimate as the one he had in- 
tended. I might tell you a pretty story about 
my Wild Man's Dance, that is, what the music 
means to me; to you it may mean an earth- 
quake or a shipwreck. When you hear it you 
observe that at first there is some confusion, as 
the men fall into line. But soon the rhythms 
become very insistent and compelling, as the 
savages unite in their mad whirl. At last one 
of them comes out from among the others, and 
dances alone in the circle. This Dance is one 
of the most difficult compositions, and requires 
tremendous power to play. You may have 
heard about my playing it for Leschetizky. Of 
course I led up to it with some simpler and 
more melodious things. When I finished the 
Dance he seemed quite dazed by it. Then he 
sprang up, exclaiming, 'You must have lied 
to me, for no living mortal could put such a 
thing on paper !' I happened to have the manu- 
script with me, and showed it to him ; he would 
scarcely believe it even then. 

Leo Ornstein 199 

" Another piece that interested me to write 
was Impressions of Notre Dame. I visited 
the famous church almost as soon as I arrived 
in Paris. On my return to the hotel the first 
Impression sprang into my mind. A few days 
later, after another visit to the old pile, the sec- 
ond Impression, Gargoyles, was written. 

"Some of my recently published composi- 
tions include a set of nine piano pieces (Op. 7) , 
two songs, Mother o 3 Mine, and There Was a 
Jolly Miller; also a Sonata for violin and 
piano, and one for piano and 'cello." 

It is evident that talent for composition went 
hand in hand with pianistic ability, for the 
young Russian began to compose at an early 
age. About four years ago new impulses led 
him into novel paths; his work began to mani- 
fest traits similar to those found in the music 
of Schoenberg and Stravinsky, although Orn- 
stein was unacquainted with their compositions. 
As he himself explains: "I do not conceive of 
music in the way Beethoven did — as a mosaic 
of themes and motives, each developed and re- 
peated, block-wise. I try to express feelings 
rather than forms — impressions, emotions, 
mental states of consciousness." 

To quote again from Huneker : 

"I never thought I should live to hear Arn- 

200 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

old Schoenberg sound tame; yet tame he is, 
almost timid and halting after Ornstein — who 
is, most emphatically, the only true-blue, genu- 
ine Futurist composer alive." 



"You are a real American?" 

"Yes, a real simon pure American, born and 
bred here; educated in music here, too, with 
exception of about four years spent on the 
other side." 

I was making the most of a flying visit to the 
city made by Mr. Henry, who was passing 
through New York en route to Peterborough, 
N. H., to enjoy a well earned vacation after 
a busy season. 

"If you wish a word of personal history," be- 
gan the pianist, "I am a Kansas boy, born and 
brought up in that state. My first piano 
teacher was Miss Geneve Lichterwalter. 

"I studied at the University of Kansas, and 
was graduated from that institution, my teach- 
ers at that time being Carl A. Preyer for piano 
and George B. Penny for theory, the latter 
now located in Rochester, N. Y. 

"After graduation, in 1902, I went abroad. 


202 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

Three years were spent in Berlin, with Godow- 
sky and Dr. Ernst Jedliczka. Then came a 
season in Paris with Moszkowski, and after 
that America. I made a few appearances with 
orchestras in Berlin, but my career virtually 
began in my own land, where I have taught 
and concertized for the past ten years. 

"During this period I can affirm that my 
greatest teacher has been Experience; there 
surely can never be a more valuable one. A 
master can do only just so much for you — can 
take you about so far, can give you the benefit 
of his knowledge and experience. After that 
you must "go it alone" — you must work it out! 
It's doing the thing that counts every time. If 
you want to be a concert pianist, then play in 
concert ; there is no other way to become what 
you desire ; you learn how to do it by doing it. 
Each year I do more public playing, though 
I do not permit this to interfere with my teach- 
ing. I devote five half days to instruction, 
which is all the time I am willing to give; I 
need the remainder for study and the prepara- J 
tion of my programs. ^J 



Regarding methods in teaching, I can truly 
say I have as many methods as I have pupils, 

Harold Henry 203 

for each one of them requires special treatment. 
No two pupils have the same physical and men- 
tal equipment ; practically every hand presents 
a new problem. This fact proves the difficulty 
that confronts the careful teacher ; it is one that 
makes constant demand on one's resources. 


"Firmness of the hand and relaxation of the 
arm are the most important principles to start 
with. The hand should assume an arched posi- 
tion, with firm knuckles and rounded fingers. 
When conditions permit I try to solidify the 
hand at once; but if I have a small, tightly- 
knit hand to deal with, it must be stretched 
and limbered up before anything else can be 
done. I use various gymnastic and stretching 
exercises ; I also have a set of technical forms 
which have been of great benefit to me; I use 
them daily and give them to my pupils. They 
consist of trills, scales, arpeggios, octaves, dou- 
ble thirds, and so on. Pupils at the outset must 
learn free finger movements and finger action ; 
eventually finger movement is well-nigh elim- 
inated and the arm does the work. The trouble 
with pupils often is they do not see the neces- 
sity for repetition and constant drill. They 
seem to think if they have done an exercise a 

204 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

few times, that is sufficient. If told to repeat 
it again and again, they exclaim, 'Oh, I've had 
that before!'" 


Mr. Henry answered the following questions 
in a way which will be appreciated by every 
teacher and student : 

1. How is finger development secured be- 
fore the time comes when the arm does the 

"By practicing slowly and as heavily as prac- 
ticable, with curved, well-raised fingers." 

2. What to do for weak finger joints? 
"For weak finger joints I use what I call 

the 'pull touch.' Beginning with the finger flat 
on the key or table ( for this can at first be done 
to great advantage away from the piano) it is 
pulled gently up to the normal curved position. 
This is also a preparatory melody touch." 

3. How much technic practice outside of 
pieces ? 

"The amount of pure technical practice out- 
side of pieces should depend on the amount of 
time the pupil devotes to practice. At least 
forty minutes out of four hours should be de- 
voted to absolute technic. Personally — and I 
encourage my pupils to do the same — I keep 

Harold Henry 205 

a practice schedule. In this way I rotate my 
technical forms so that nothing is slighted." 

4. Velocity and power? 

"Velocity and power are only attained 
through definite and systematic drill. As we 
are not good judges of our own speed in play- 
ing, the metronome is of incalculable value in 
working for velocity. All technical forms 
should be strictly rhythmic, and dynamics must 
also be considered. Accents are of tremendous 
importance in working for velocity. To at- 
tain power and endurance, all slow technical 
work should be done with as much tone as is 
practicable, keeping muscular conditions 
always right." 

5. Best way to study chords and octaves? 
"In playing chords and octaves, the hand 

should be extremely firm, the wrist and arm 
devitalized. Whether the wrist is held high or 
low depends entirely on the hand and wrist of 
the individual. I hold my wrist high in most 
chords and octave passages, for I am thus able 
to keep conditions more nearly ideal in this 
way ; for pupils with large, loose hands, the low 
wrist is advisable. 

"I have many technical forms for developing 
a chord and octave technic. In the main I 
get best results by teaching first a prepared 

206 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

hand, lifting the wrist first, and allowing the 
hand to follow." 

6. Scale practice with metronome? 

"By all means practice not only scales, but 
all other purely technical forms with the metro- 
nome for velocity and power. I always break 
scales up into accented sections, each one of 
which I polish before practicing the scale as 
a whole." 

7. Your views on modern compositions? 
"The trouble with the modern composer is 

apparently the desire to be clever rather than 
sincere. While the average worth is high, the 
great bulk of things now being written — I 
speak of piano compositions — will not live, be- 
cause the novelty of them which is their chief 
attraction, rapidly wears off. The extreme 
technical difficulty of much that is now being 
written entirely outweighs the musical content. 
Much time must be wasted before discovering 
that one neither wants to play or teach them. 
Nevertheless, I am constantly going through 
reams of new music, and when once in a while 
I come across something of real charm and in- 
spiration, I consider my labor well repaid. In 
spite of the great difficulty of finding new 
things which are worth while, I feel it the duty 
of the concert pianist, a duty which he owes 

Harold Henry 207 

himself and his public, to give programs that 
are at least unhackneyed. The disfavor into 
which the piano recital has fallen is the fault, 
not of the instrument nor the public, but of the 
performer in his stereotyped program-making. 
It is too much to expect, and it is taking our 
own attainments too seriously, to think that 
we can read so much that is of new interest into 
compositions which have been on every pro- 
gram for at least twenty years, to speak within 
bounds. Let us rather make familiar the little 
known compositions of the masters." 

Mr. Henry is constantly widening his out- 
look and enlarging his repertoire. Each season 
adds to his influence as teacher and interpreter. 



Henry Holden Huss, American pianist, 
composer, teacher, belongs to a musical fam- 
ily. His father was long a beacon light among 
the teachers of a former generation, he himself 
has made an honorable career in his chosen pro- 
fession. His musical studies were begun with 
his father and continued with Rheinberger in 
Munich. He also studied theory with O. B. 
Boise. He is well known as an excellent pian- 
ist, thorough teacher, and is the author of a 
number of ambitious compositions in the larger 

It is a pleasure to confer with so enthusiastic 
a thinker on pianistic problems as Henry 
Holden Huss. 

"I believe in hobbies," said Mr. Huss, with 
characteristic animation and conviction; "we 
all have them. I don't mean hobby-horses, of 
course, for they constantly move, but never get 


OS*, c^ 

c^ c~%ruzL~&j2& ^W**^/ 

Henry Holden Huss » 209 

"One of my hobbies is the advisability, really 
the necessity for short periods of study. No 
intelligent practice can be done if one sits at 
the piano several hours at a stretch.f A pupil 
will tell you she has practiced two or three 
hours without stopping, as though it were a 
great virtue, something to be proud of; while 
you know she could not have done it with any 
sort of concentration. MacDowell told me that 
when he studied, it was with such intense con- 
centration that he needed to rest a bit after 
fifteen minutes' work. And you remember, he 
was an athlete in physique and strength. After 
thirty minutes' practice, I think the player 
should rest four or five." 

"Do you, then, approve of hour lessons?" 
"Certainly, for the reason that I can call a 
halt and make a little diversion myself. If 
something is going on in the street below or a 
hand-organ is playing, we stop a few moments 
and listen; then we can resume the work in 
hand with fresh vigor. 

"piano playing" a bad term 

"I wish a new term could be invented to re- 
place the universal one — piano playing — for 
this seems entirely lacking in dignity and mean- 
ing. Would not piano interpretation come 

210 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

much nearer the truth? I suppose the term 
'playing' has come down to us from the minne- 
singers, who played their little harps and sang 
their songs for the amusement of the gentry in 
the ages gone by. In these days our aim is 
really to interpret piano music. Even the little 
child does so with his simple pieces. 

"Another of my hobbies is a vigorous oppo- 
sition to the desecration of Bach's music for 
the piano, which results in its being hated by 
so many students. New pupils often say to 
me: 'Whatever you do, don't make me play 
Bach!' I ask why, and they answer that they 
hate him. Then I tell them I am sure they 
have been fed on the Inventions. They seem 
surprised I should know it and admit I am 
right. Many teachers, in small places, think 
it their duty to teach Bach under all circum- 
stances. So they give the Inventions, using 
them as technical exercises. A young lady 
came to me not long ago who had had just this 
experience. She looked on Bach as one who 
wrote dry polyphony, with no soul or emotion. 
To prove how mistaken she was, I played part 
of the air, My Heart Ever Faithful. She 
thought it beautiful but would hardly believe 
it was Bach. I fully agree with you that the 

Henry Holden Huss 211 

gavottes, gigues and sarabandes are a much 
more pleasing side of the great master to be- 
gin with than are the Inventions. Though 
even the Inventions contain much variety of 
expression, if one has the technic and ability 
to bring it out. The fact is, Bach expresses 
all shades of feeling ; surely the Chromatic Fan- 
taisie is as full of emotion as is anything of 


"One thing I firmly believe in, and that is 
the elimination of the mechanical etude, and 
their name is legion. Think of those difficult 
things of Alkan, for instance. The fact that 
the distinctly intellectual side of music study is 
being more and more cultivated and investi- 
gated is a very definite and let me say modern 
cause for encouragement. Let me cite here 
something that sounds almost incredible. 
Czerny, dear old Czerny, frequently useful old 
Czerny, and sometimes foolish old Czerny, in 
one of his innumerable books of technical 
studies says : 'As the student will probably find 
these exercises rather dry' (he usually does!) 
'let him place a book or newspaper on the 
piano-desk to read while playing them!' 
Fortunately nowadays we are ready to grasp 

212 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

eagerly whatever makes for concentration of 

"Let us use our influence for the musical 
and expressive. I endeavor to make my pupils 
see that everything they do should have a 
meaning and should be expressive of some 
thought. The very technic of the piece is the 
body in which the musical thought of the com- 
poser comes to us. The player surely desires to 
present the composer's ideas in as fair and per- 
fect a body as possible. Hence the necessity 
of working at the technical side in order to ac- 
complish this. I advise pure technical forms 
in place of a great many etudes. 

"I have in my Condensed Technics endeav- 
ored to provide exercises that absolutely re- 
quire great concentration, since they are all to 
be played with varied rhythms and shifted ac- 
cents, and require transposition into all keys. 
Along with these technics I find it most advis- 
able to search out the difficult passages in pieces 
and encourage the pupil himself to construct 
little etudes out of them. Most of my pupils, 
perhaps ninety-five per cent, have practice 
claviers, which I recommend to them all. I 
advise dividing practice between clavier and 
piano. For I have found in pupils who have 
been trained to use the clavier for a large part 

Henry Holden Huss 213 

of their practice, that while they may have ex- 
cellent fingers, the musical sense has not been 
sufficiently cultivated, nor their idea of depth, 
power and variety of tone. 

"How piano technic has advanced, through 
relaxed arms and wrists ! You remember how 
much Paderewski has done for us all in this 
line. Among the present-day theories, we 
know there are some that are founded on prin- 
ciples and will stand. A baby placed before 
the keyboard pats the keys with outstretched 
fingers and quite naturally limp wrists. That 
condition of loose wrist is what one must have 
to secure a musical quality of tone. In getting 
back to nature we know we have come to the 
correct principle. 


"Of course, every teacher wants serious stu- 
dents. To speak frankly, if I see a girl fond 
of candy, French shoes and continued excite- 
ment, or a boy who must have his cigarettes and 
highballs, I say to them: 'There are plenty of 
teachers in New York who will be glad to have 
you as pupils and take your money. Go to 
them, for I don't want you. I only want seri- 
ous workers.' 

"It is a much-discussed question as to 

214 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

whether the teacher shall explain what is to be 
done and let the pupil work it out alone, or 
whether he shall illustrate his instruction at the 
instrument. Though I believe in the former 
method, I cannot always follow it. If a pupil 
comes from a distance and wishes to get all the 
help he can, I must not only explain, but show 
him many things at the piano. For instance, if 
I say: 'You accent this passage too strongly,' 
he will answer, 'How much should I accent it?' 
The quickest way is to show him. Thus I find 
there are many points which cannot be de- 
scribed but must be shown. 

"I wish you would write an article on the 
'Greater Chopin/ We hear so much about him 
at present. One of my hobbies is to combat the 
idea of making everything of Chopin heroic. 
One pianist tried to make the first movement 
of the F minor Concerto heroic, and in my 
opinion it was spoiled in the process. Chopin's 
music seems to express every sentiment and 
emotion except humor. Did it ever strike you 
he is lacking in this? One would think the 
Scherzi would express humor, but they do not, 
to my thinking. Chopin could be bright, gay, 
capricious, but not really humorous, as Bee- 
thoven was or Schumann or MacDowell." 



"Indeed I am glad to be in America — it is 
the best country to live in at present. I re- 
turned several months ago, after an absence of 
many years. In fact, I really grew up on the 
other side, as I was taken abroad when but a 
young lad." 

The speaker was Richard Buhlig, an Ameri- 
can pianist, who will make an extended tour of 
his native land. 

It is pleasant to come into more personal 
touch with this pianist than is possible through 
listening to a recital by him. One finds many 
qualities of delicacy and sensitiveness for the 
subtleties in art and musical expression which 
are revealed during an interchange of ideas in 
musical conference. 

"As a young boy," continued the artist, "I 
went to Vienna, to study with Leschetizky, and 
remained with him about three years. Since 
that period I have superintended my own de- 


216 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

velopment. An artist must always do that — 
the sooner he can do so the better for him. If 
he is intended for public life, he only begins to 
learn many things about his art when he comes 
before an audience. This very act brings en- 
lightenment. He then discovers what no one 
could ever tell him. He then gains experience, 
which after all is the great teacher. It has been 
my good fortune to play in almost every coun- 
try in Europe, except Russia and the Balkans. 
The outbreak of the war prevented my rilling 
the many engagements booked for me in Rus- 
sia, but I had played in Germany for two sea- 
sons, until I left for this country.' ' 

Mr. Buhlig has a winning personality; he 
has thought deeply on all subjects relating to 
his art. So just and cogent are his views on 
piano study that I questioned at once if he 

"Yes, I have for years done some teaching. 
I love to teach, and shall continue to do it here 
between my concert engagements. Many of 
my pupils are righting in the different armies ; 
in fact they are scattered everywhere. Some 
have come over to this side to continue work 
with me here, while some who have known of 
my career in Europe will put themselves under 
my guidance. 

Richard Buhlig 2YI 


L You ask about my manner of teaching. I 
can say at once I have no method, though of 
course there are certain things every pupil 
must know how to do and work on daily. One 
needs trills, scales, chords and octaves; when 
one can do these things in every possible tempo 
and gradation of tone, piece playing becomes 
comparatively easy. I have no sympathy with 
cut and dried methods, or with endless repeti- 
tions of Czerny studies and other mechanical 
etudes. When every person is different from 
every other person in constitution and tem- 
perament, in mind and physique, how can a 
master have a method to fit them all? The 
thing is impossible! One pupil has a large, 
flabby hand — another a small, tight one. One 
pupil can move the arm well, but has no fing- 
ers ; another has good fingers, but no command 
of arms. I treat the former student as though 
I only cared about fingers — for a time; while 
for the latter I work with arms as though they 
were the most essential things. So you can 
see the teaching must be entirely individual ; a 
teacher must have as many ways of teaching 
as he has pupils. 

"A teacher must have great experience as 

218 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

well as tact and intuition, to know how to diag- 
nose each particular case, and what to prescribe 
for it. He is a doctor in more senses than one. 
He must know the malady the pupil suffers 
from, also the best means to eradicate and 
cure it. 


"Ear training is one of the most important 
branches of study. I find one of the greatest 
difficulties which stand in the way of progress, 
JNs the failure to hear what one is doing at the 
piano. The student may have an idea in his 
mind as to how the piece ought to sound, but 
often seems quite oblivious as to how he is 
making it sound. His head may be in the 
<J^urlg ^hile__hi s harms a re making thernost 
atrocious errors as to tone and rhythm. I say 

to him: 'I can TencT you my earsToran hour- 
to-day, but what of the many hours you will 
have to use your own till you come againT 
HFor the most a master can do is to give the stu- 
dent the benefit of his ears, while instructing 
him how to use his own. When the moment 
comes that the pupil actually hears what he 
is doing, consciousness is awakened and then 
progress begins. When that moment comes, 
the pupil realizes that his tone is not beautiful; 

Richard Bulilig 219 

in fact it becomes consciously unbeautiful, 
where before it had been unconsciously so. He 
finds that his playing altogether is very differ- 
ent from what he would have it. It is a crucial 
period, and needs the firm hand of a master 
to prevent discouragement, to hold him up, 
and show him what to work for. 

"I try to have the student learn to empty his 
ears, and then learn to listen. I say to him: 
'Practice with empty ears, so that you may fully 
hear what you are doing. Don't play straight 
through the piece; rather pause often in your 
study. Sit back and listen to phrases. Play 
the phrase in various ways, noting what is 
wrong. Concentrate on each point, to make it 
as perfect as possible.' When teaching do not 
always tell the pupil the fault. Insist on his 
playing the passage till he himself finds out 
what is wrong. Is there not a line of Brown- 
ing, which intimates that God uses us to help 
each other, by lending our ears out ? We first 
help pupils with the use of our ears; but they 
must be shown how to use their own. 

"While I do not care for mechanical etudes, 
I use Bach constantly; the Inventions to start 
with, and as much more as I can give. To get 
a pupil to see the form and shape of a single 
phrase of a Bach Invention, the pure beauty 

220 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

and expressiveness of it, is doing much for his 


"The pedal is another factor in playing, the 
use of which is not understood. There is much 
more to pedal playing than merely putting it 
down at one chord and taking it up at another. 
The pedal is an art in itself. It is the moon- 
light of the piano — the sunlight too ; the fog if 
you will, and the atmosphere. I have made 
a great study of pedaling. I use the deceptive 
pedal, by which I mean that it gives quality 
and color to the tone, though the listener does 
not know it is being used. He would miss it 
if it were not there. He realizes the coloring 
of the tones, but may not detect use of pedal. 
The pedals are employed for color. I can 
use pedal for scales with such rapid foot-vibra- 
tion that it amounts to a tremolo. 

"My repertoire contains most of the large 
works in piano literature — the great sonatas 
and concertos. I am known on the other side 
as an interpreter of important works. I have 
not so good a repertoire of pieces in the lighter 
forms. Yet several years ago I was the first 
pianist, I think, to place a group of Debussy 
on a program. Other players would insert a 

Richard Buhlig 221 

single number here and there, but I put nine 
or ten on my English programs, thereby mak- 
ing quite a propaganda for this style of music. 
Since then I have taken up Schoenberg and 
have done the same for him. 

"We might question the right of some of 
these modern or futuristic works to be called 
music at all. They are not, in our accepted 
meaning of the term. They are pictorial, 
though I personally prefer to liken them to 
literature than pictures. The modern French 
composers are programatic — but more pictorial 
than literary. 

"They have a kinship with painters, for they 
strive to paint pictures with tones. Modern 
painters, on the other hand, try to imitate 
music. We might say Debussy is related to 
Whistler. Schumann, on the contrary, finds 
his counterpart in literature. 

"Of the two greatest musicians since Bee- 
thoven — Chopin and Wagner — I place Chopin 
first. Look at his Mazurkas, — what consum- 
mate mastery of form! Music, unlike other 
arts, has no subject matter to begin with: it 
starts with spirit. To me, the highest in music 
is not that which strives to depict pictures, 
scenes or states, but what is intangible, impalp- 
able — spiritual. It is related of Schoenberg 

222 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

that he was asked the meaning of one of his 
compositions. 'What does it mean? Why — 
music.' I understand that perfectly. Nothing 
I play has specific or tangible meaning ; to me 
it is music : that is enough ! 

"Yes, one needs a particular style of technic 
to play the compositions of Debussy and the 
rest; creeping, sliding movements, — very lit- 
tle finger lifting, and always the shimmering 
pedals to give color and atmosphere. 


"In regard to interpretation, I feel that the 
artist must have a clear concept of the composi- 
tion, its form and meaning ; he must know how 
he wishes to make it sound. Naturally he 
strives at each repetition of it in public, to 
carry out this ideal; it would be most illogical 
to expect him to do otherwise. But he should 
play it as though he did it for the first time. 
That is one difference between the artist and 
the non-artist. The latter plays as though by 
rule, or as he has been taught, while the artist 
recreates anew, though on the lines he feels best 
express the feeling of the music. I admit 
that, as his surroundings vary, his mood may 
change a little. One day soft places may be 
softer, loud parts louder; he may have more 

Richard Buhlig 223 

vitality at one time than another. But he 
surely must try to express the selfsame ideal. 
Again, the difference between the non-artist 
and the artist lies in the concept. The artist 
works out a matured concept and ideal, while 
the non-artist often plays as he feels, with no 
plan at all. You notice I do not contrast the 
artist with the amateur, for I believe the ama- 
teur can be an artist, on whom no necessity is 
laid to make a business of his art. I wish it 
might be possible to employ our art freely in 
this way, for the love of the doing. Then both 
teaching and playing would be a gift to those 
who are ready and appreciative. And when 
you think of it, how can dollars and cents repay 
the artist who gives an audience the best that 
is in him, the sum of all his experiences, the 
result of all his sufferings, his very life blood. 
Or to the teacher who gives to the pupil his 
ears, his eyes, his wide knowledge, insight and 
experience. If it were not necessary for the 
artist to have things for his well-being and 
existence, it would be a joy to give his art 
freely, without thought of mercenary return, 
but having the appreciation of the receiver. 
For I do not believe that only the receiver 
should feel gratitude ; it is also grateful for the 
giver to give." 



One of the pianistic sensations of the season 
of nineteen sixteen has been the playing of 
Mischa Levitski, as the inspired performances 
of the young Brazilian, Guiomar Novaes, had 
been the year before. Levitzki suddenly ap- 
peared in our midst, and had given his third 
recital before the season was half over. His 
first recital won an instant success; each suc- 
ceeding one increased his hold on the public. 
The listener realized here was an unusual tal- 
ent, already highly developed. A well- 
equipped technic, subtle feeling for tone color, 
clear grasp of the composer's meaning, ability 
to set all these forth with conviction and au- 
thority, made his performances full of satisfac- 
tion and delight. 

Mischa Levitski is very young to have 
achieved so much. He has the boyish manner, 
the frank open expression and ready smile be- 
fitting his youth ; but at the piano one feels the 


Mischa Levitzki 225 

maturity of thought which tempers the young 
ardor of his nature. In conversation he is 
clear-thoughted and fluent, ready to share his 
experiences with the questioner, though he says 
sometimes, with winning modesty, — "it seems 
so to me, but perhaps I am rather young to 

A recent chat with Levitski elicited interest- 
ing facts about himself and his work. 

"You ask for a brief account of my short 
career," he began. 

"I was born in Russia, though I am an 
American citizen, as my father was naturalized 
here thirty years ago. Eight years of my child- 
hood were spent in Russia and then we came to 
New York. About a year and a half before we 
left the other side I had begun to study music. 

"Not long after we arrived in America, I 
was taken to the Institute of Musical Art, 
and placed under the tuition of Stojowski. I 
also had to attend the public school as well, so 
that I was never able to practise more than 
two hours daily — often not more than an hour 
and a half. I merely mention this because peo- 
ple often imagine I must have practised inces- 
santly, because I have considerable technic. 

"After about four years at the Institute I 
went to Berlin, and had the privilege of study- 

226 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

ing with Dohnanyi. He is a wonderful master 
and above all such a thorough musician. I 
know of no greater teacher, if the pupil is ready 
to profit by such guidance. 

"In Berlin I could exchange the routine of 
school life for lessons with private tutors, and 
thus gave but two hours daily to school work, 
leaving all the rest of my time to be devoted to 
music. Here again I was handicapped in piano 
study. An injury to my right hand and arm, 
caused by excessive bicycle riding, prevented 
me from practising over two hours a day. This 
was a severe disappointment, when I was so 
eager to give all my time to music. But I 
thought music constantly, lived in it, made 
serious theoretical studies and heard no end of 
concerts and operas. I am happy to say, how- 
ever, that the two following years of my four 
with Dohnanyi, I could use my hand for three 
hours each day. 


"We know there is such a thing as a natural 
technic, and I suppose that is what I have. I 
think technic is a gift, just as much as the gift 
for musical expression. But a gift in either 
direction must be developed to be of real value. 
I am beginning to realize this more and more. 

Mischa Levitzki 227 

"With my two great teachers I did very lit- 
tle technical study, as such. For example, I 
was told to practice scales, but I seldom did so. 
As my teacher never heard scales at the lesson, 
and as I was able to make a pretty good show- 
ing in my pieces, he thought I must have prac- 
ticed them. 

"When I went to Dohnanyi, he at first gave 
me smaller things than I had been doing — the 
Kinder scenen of Schumann and the earliest 
Sonatas of Beethoven. Some students might 
have objected to this, but I was very glad to 
study in such a careful, systematic way. He 
believes one must have much more technic than 
the piece requires, so he always gives pieces 
that do not tax your technical ability to the 
utmost, so that you may be able to more fully 
master their meaning and content. 

"Dohnanyi allows the student to play the 
piece entirely through without interruption. 
He listens carefully, often jotting down faults 
on a slip of paper, though he generally remem- 
bers them. When the piece is finished — not 
before — he makes the corrections. Finally he 
plays the piece through from beginning to end. 
As he is such a master interpreter, this of itself 
is a great inspiration to the pupil. 

"In regard to the technical side, the Hun- 

228 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

garian master did not so greatly concern him- 
self. He did not attempt to teach technic out- 
side of compositions. The student must ac- 
quire this by himself. My technic advanced 
rapidly after the first year or two, for I began 
to play much more difficult music, in fact I 
played everything with him. 

"Dohnanyi is very particular about clearness 
of touch, requiring the fingers to be well raised 
in slow and careful practice. The beginning 
and finishing of the phrase, its shading and 
balance, are all thought out. I acquired a well 
developed technic of the fingers; I could do 
almost anything with my fingers, but I did not 
know how I did it. Things came so easily to 
me that I never went deep enough into the sub- 
ject to know how I accomplished them. I be- 
lieve many artists — those who have the gift of 
technic at all events — do not analyze the prin- 
ciples which underlie artistic technic. Perhaps 
I should say few artists ever do. The gift of 
technic does not mean the understanding of it ; 
that must be learned through patient study. 


"For the past year and a half I have taken 
my own development in hand, which one must 
always do sooner or later. 

Mischa Levitzki 229 

"I feel that I am now solving the technic 
problem for myself. As I have said, I had 
never occupied myself much with that side, — 
never thought it necessary to inquire into the 
principles, so long as I could play the pieces 
I wanted to play. Over a year ago my need 
for deeper knowledge came almost as a revela- 
tion. As I pondered the technic problem on 
this certain day, a light seemed to dawn, and 
I then, for the first time, grasped the principles 
upon which the whole scheme of piano technic 
rests. The principles themselves are not new 
— they have been known for a long time. But 
it is rather the manner of their application that 
became the new light to me. It may be only 
in my own case that the working out will apply ; 
it may not fit others. 

"In one way it is no secret that I have dis- 
covered, yet it is very difficult to put into 
words ; it would be easier to demonstrate it than 
to describe it. Briefly, it can be said the prin- 
ciple of relaxation plays a very large part ; sup- 
ple, yielding wrists, arms that hang quite free 
from the body ; also the idea of playing easily, 
with no stiffness or strain anywhere. Of course 
these are Dohnanyi's principles, too; he uses 
them in teaching and playing, as do all great 
artists. But I have discovered for myself 

230 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

methods of applying these principles; I know 
now just what I am doing, and why. 

"I give much of my practice time — at least 
half of it — to working up my technic. I found 
that while I had good ringer development, I 
fell far short in octaves. None of my teachers 
had given me systematic training in this branch 
of technic, so I have set myself to master it. 



"In watching the performance of artists, 
one is apt to be deceived as to movement and 
condition. They often make so little move- 
ment with ringers or wrist, that, to the casual 
observer, these scarcely seem to move at all. 
When you see Busoni play octaves, it seems 
as though his wrists must be stiff, so quietly 
are they held. But such cannot be the case, 
or he would not be able to execute octaves at 
all. In short, the public performance of the 
artist is apt to be very deceiving. He gener- 
ally plays quietly with no unnecessary motions ; 
in fact the greater the artist the more quiet his 
movements. For instance my own playing is 
quite different in public from what it is in the 
privacy of my own studio. There I play 
slowly, with well-raised fingers, and large free 

Mischa Levitzki 231 

movements. In public I eliminate much of this 
and use only the most necessary movements. 
During study hours I am not striving for 
power, but for ease of movement with right 
conditions; yet I have enough power when I 
need it. Public playing is the finished product, 
shorn of everything that savors of the work- 

Here Mr. Levitzki brings out clearly a point 
which often mystifies both teachers and stu- 
dents. They seem to think, because an artist 
plays so quietly, with little movement of 
fingers, wrists or arms, it is not necessary for 
them to teach or study correct action of the 
various hinges of hand and fingers. This is 
a grave mistake. The artist has trained his 
anatomy through many years of severe effort ; 
he probably continues to do so in the privacy 
of his studio. In public he foregoes all but the 
most necessary movement, for we are often 
told it is the highest art to conceal art. But no 
one ever gained command over his playing 
mechanism and the keyboard, without working 
for correct finger action, supple wrists and 
loose arms. It is folly to start at the top of the 
ladder, when, to make real progress, one must 
take the required steps leading to the goal. 
Rather start at the bottom, making the ascent 

232 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

gradually and logically. Then there will be 
nothing to undo. 


"I desire to play the classics well," went on 
the young artist; "perhaps that style suits me 
best — at least I love it. Mozart, for instance, 
Mozart the most difficult of all. The notes are 
often very simple, as you say ; that fact is one 
of the chief difficulties. In works of other 
composers, the tones can be sustained or cov- 
ered by the pedals, but not so in Mozart. Here 
the bare tones must stand forth unaided by 
pedals, which are to be used very sparingly. 
It seems to me the greatest requirement is 
absolute evenness; also beginning and ending 
the phrases in just the right way. You have 
heard Lhevinne, and you know what a fine 
technic he has. He worked at a Mozart Con- 
certo three whole months before he could get it 
into shape. There is really a school of Mozart 
playing. At one of my New York recitals, I 
put one bravoura selection — the Rubinstein 
Staccato Etude — on the programme, just to 
prove that I could do that style too. And of 
course a pianist must have the Liszt Rhap- 
sodies and works of like caliber in his reper- 
toire. But I prefer the compositions of the 
classic masters." 




"It was a liberal education to have known 
Leschetizky," remarked Ethel Newcomb, as 
we were chatting about her studies in Vienna. 

"Leschetizky was such a wonderful man/' 
continued this American pianist and teacher; 
"I can scarcely realize he is no longer with us; 
he was the best friend I ever had.f If he took 
interest in a student, he never seemed to con- 
sider how much time he gave; in fact time 
seemed as nothing in such cases^ 

"To show how unstintedly the master gave 
of his time, I will mention this little incident. 

"I had been so occupied with my own studies 
that I had not thought about public appear- 
ances. Leschetizky came to me one day and 

" 'I am losing interest in you; you don't 
seem to have the ambition you ought to have ; 
you seem to have entirely settled down to your 
studies ; you ought to be playing.' 

234 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

'Why, Professor, what would you have 
me do?' 

" 'Get out and play — give a recital, play 
with orchestra — only play!' (He always 
wanted his pupils to play in public.) 

" 'Very well,' I said, 'I will go to the man- 
ager to-morrow morning and see what can be 

"Next morning, on the way there, I met a 
noted singer, who informed me she was just 
arranging for a concert with orchestra, and 
asked me to appear with her. I was delighted 
at the chance of playing with the Philharmonic 
Orchestra of Vienna and of appearing with 
Mme. Francis Sayville, and gaily returned to 
the Professor with the news, telling him I had 
decided to play the Schumann Concerto. The 
Professor did not quite approve of my choice, 
saying I would have to stand comparison with 
the greatest artists. If I did well, people 
would say the music was so beautiful, it would 
sound beautiful no matter who played it ; while 
if I did not do well, I would be blamed for at- 
tempting such a work. But I was not to be 
deterred, for I had worked on the Concerto a 
long time. The Professor rehearsed it with 
me almost every day. We would begin after 
supper and work till nearly midnight, so eager 

Ethel Newcomb 235 

was he to have it perfect, so utterly prodigal 
was he of his valuable time. 

"At the orchestral rehearsal, there was a 
passage for flutes, which failed to come in. Not 
hearing it, I stopped. The conductor turned 
to know what was the matter. Instantly the 
Professor rushed up, calling out, 'the Fraulein 
is right, she knows the parts so perfectly and 
has such sensitive ears she was disturbed when 
the flutes didn't come in properly.' 'I said it 
to save you,' he told me afterwards. 'The next 
time if they fail to come in, you will have to 
play the flute part yourself.' 

"The day before the concert, Leschetizky 
gave up his lessons, and we worked together 
both afternoon and evening. When he saw 
the large audience assembling on the night of 
the concert, he advised me to play the opening 
passage with quite a different touch and phras- 
ing, to render the tone more brilliant and pow- 


"I studied and worked with the Professor 
between fourteen and fifteen years. The last 
four years I was his assistant. I was a very 
young girl when I went to Vienna — really only 
a child. I had been taught at home in America, 

236 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

and my friends considered I had talent. In 
those days I could go to a concert, listen to a 
difficult piano piece, perhaps a Liszt rhapsody, 
come home and play it with reasonable accu- 
racy, so acute were my ear and memory. I had 
studied some of the rhapsodies, and a lot of 
technic of the old Stuttgart school, but had no 
foundation of musical knowledge when I went 
to Vienna. 

"I was duly prepared by one of the Vor- 
bereiters, Fraulein Prentner, before taking my 
first lesson with Leschetizky. After a couple 
of lessons, I was told to play for the next class. 
These classes, as is well known, assembled every 
fortnight. I shall never forget this first experi- 
ence. My name was called and I marched 
quite bravely to the piano, to play my three 
pieces, not knowing what was in store for me. 

"My first piece went very well. At its close 
the Professor asked me to make a little modu- 
lation into the key of the next number. It was 
an impossibility; I had never studied music 
that way. The Professor appeared very much 
surprised; then he called up a lad of eight, 
since become one of the leading pianists of 
Germany, and asked him to make the required 
modulation, 'for this lady.' The incident was 
a revelation. I had looked upon myself as a 

Ethel Newcomb 237 

child. Now I was addressed as a lady, yet I 
couldn't match with a boy of eight! I began 
to see the difference between the training I 
had had and the kind to be obtained over there, 
where foundational knowledge is so thorough. 
They receive the sort of training that enables 
one to transpose, improvise, play a difficult 
composition in another key from the original; 
in short to be real musicians. 

"I had studied with Leschetizky about ten 
years, when the call came for me to return to 
America. I told him I must leave for financial 

'No, you must not go,' he said. 'I will 
make }^ou my assistant ; you shall begin teach- 
ing at once ; I will send you six pupils to-mor- 
row.' And he did. I soon had a great many 
pupils. He introduced me everywhere as his 
assistant, and took the greatest pains to make 
me clear on every point. One wonderful sum- 
mer I went with him to Ischl, and there we 
worked together daily, on how to teach, taking 
up every subject in detail. At that time I only 
half realized what a marvelous opportunity it 
was.f He would discuss the hand from every 
point of view ; what this sort of hand should do, 
and why another kind of hand should be held 
differently, and should be required to do other- 


238 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

wise. This is why he often said he had no 
method. 'To make a pupil play three notes on 
the piano, expressively and with variety of 
touch, that is my method,' he would say. He 
was impatient of so-called methods ; he used to 
say to me, 'You will not write method books — , 
you will play, that is your mission !' ^/ 


"The pianist is influenced more or less by 
the receptivity of his audience. I am certain 
one cannot always play in the same way; the 
piano, the room and the audience are factors 
to be reckoned with. I wish I could always rise 
above these things, but I am often influenced 
by various moods, and therefore play differ- 
ently at different times. New York is perhaps 
the most trying city to appear in ; yet American 
audiences are most encouraging and enthusi- 
astic. European — or, to be more exact, Ger- 
man — audiences are cold. They do not con- 
sider the player; he is only a medium through 
which they hear the composition; in other 
words they go to hear the music, not the per- 

"This is a very subtle subject, the working 
of the mind during performance. Surely the 
ideal state is to be beyond the thinking and 

Ethel Newcomb 239 

planning stage, so that the player can freely 
listen to his own tones, without being in any 
way hampered or limited by questions of tech- 
nic or memory. When I play, I am not look- 
ing ahead or anticipating what is coming; I 
am intently listening, listening to the tones as 
they flow from under my fingers. 

"True listening — that hearing mentally by 
the inner ear — is possible only when one can so 
detach one's self from one's surroundings as 
to be entirely wrapped up in what one is doing. 
Then, and then only, one really begins to hear. 
I have seen this absorbed look come into the 
eyes of Ysaye, as he stands before his audience. 
After the first few phrases, his eyes take on a 
different look; when this comes I know he has 
found himself, that he really hears. It is the 
same with the great pianists also. When in 
this trance-like state, one is not always con- 
scious of what happens. At a recent recital, 
when a recall was demanded, I was in such a 
mental state that I could not come down to a 
short, small piece for an encore. Before I 
knew it I had plunged into the Scherzo, Op. 
39, of Chopin. I had not looked at this piece 
for two years. A sudden realization of the 
risk I was taking, almost made me come to 
grief, until I had recovered poise. 

240 Piano Mastery — Second Series 


"I practice from four to five hours a day, 
and generally play with about the power I 
deem necessary for the concert hall, as thus 
I can keep myself at concert pitch. I certainly 
believe in scales, and practice them in various 
touches and shadings. So also with octaves, 
chords and arpeggios. Whenever my technic 
seems to require it, I go over these things. Nor 
do I neglect the Etudes, Op. 740, of Czerny. 
Several of these, played consecutively, should 
put the hand in good condition. Leschetizky 
believed that the first three contain everything 
needed in piano playing. They were among 
the requirements for obtaining lessons from 
him. He usually called for one or two of these 
when the pupil first came to him. In fact, at 
any subsequent lesson, if he saw technical 
inaccuracy, he was liable to call for one of the 
Czerny studies, transposed into another key. 
So they had to be learned in all keys. I run 
through the four books frequently, and so keep 
them fresh in my fingers. 

"One finds technical problems constantly in 
pieces. If I play the Tschaikowsky Concerto, 
I find there plenty of practice in chords. 
Leschetizky's idea was not to practice either 

Ethel Newcomb 241 

strenuous technic or etudes late at night, as 
this would probably result in stiff muscles next 
day. Rather play pieces at night, especially 
those containing variety of touch. 



"I find that people often go 'round and 
'round the subject of piano study, without go- 
ing directly for the thing they are or should be 
aiming at. They run after this or that method, 
whatever is most largely advertised. Nowhere 
is this more evident than right here in New 
York. They take dancing lessons to help them 
play the piano. I say nothing against Dal- 
croze, or mechanical keyboards, but I do be- 
lieve that if you want to study music, you 
should go direct to music itself, by the most 
direct route. 

"I am convinced that America is improving 
the quality of musical training offered to music 
students. We have become more thorough and 
systematic. There are more things to be 
learned about music than just to play a few 
tunes on the piano. We are learning to try 
and find the meaning and significance of music 



The name Rafael Joseffy has long been 
one to conjure with, whether in Europe or 
America, whether as pianist or as pedagogue. 
He was by birth an Hungarian, itself a fact 
of musical significance. He had studied with 
Tausig and Liszt, and when he came to 
America, in 1879, in the flush of youthful mas- 
tery of his instrument, he created a furore. He 
was at that time a marvelous virtuoso; he de- 
veloped later into a poetic genius of the piano. 

It would require a readier pen than mine to 
fitly describe either the manner of playing, or 
the teaching methods of this piano conqueror. 
He had many pupils and followers during his 
long residence among us, and his influence over 
the development of music in America was im- 
portant. As the years passed he became more 
and more a thinker along the lines of music 
education, as is evidenced by his two valuable 
works on piano technic. These books prove 


Rafael Joseffy 

Rafael Joseffy 243 

how carefully he worked out technical prob- 

Technic for the piano is such an individual 
thing. In a sense it must be applied differently 
to each pupil. This enlists all the resources of 
the teacher, since the mentality of the student 
is varied in every case. And if the teacher 
must adapt his instruction to fit each and every 
individual, so, on the side of the pupil, there 
will be found every shade of comprehension 
and receptivity. 

I have been able to confer with several of 
the American pupils of Rafael Joseffy, and 
what they have to say will be of deep interest 
to pianists and teachers. 

Rose Wolf 

Mme. Rose Wolf, who was the master's as- 
sistant for about fifteen years, brought to her 
work a wide experience of masters and meth- 
ods. Born in Russia, a student in the Rubin- 
stein Conservatory, under the famous pianist, 
she also studied with Klindworth and Schar- 
wenka in Berlin, and with Dr. William Mason 
and A. K. Virgil in New York. In fact she 
has investigated all methods, "to see what was 
in them." 

"I had studied with Joseffy, with some inter- 


244 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

ruptions, ever since I was fourteen," she says. 
"I feel I know his method thoroughly; in fact, 
his 'new book/ as we called it, — the First Les- 
sons, we wrote, so to say, together. He con- 
sulted me about every exercise ; my knowledge 
of Mr. Virgil's Method helped to explain 
many a point. During the past fifteen years 
I prepared most of the pupils for Joseffy, and 
alternated lessons with his. 



Here is a model of Joseffy's hand. You see 
how the fingers are rounded, the knuckles al- 
most level on top ; the knuckle of the fifth fin- 
ger is as high as that of the second; the thumb 
is curved also ; it is an ideal shape. He was very 
particular about hand position; that must be 
formed before anything else could be done. He 
takes up this subject in the opening chapter of 
First Lessons. Then comes finger action. He 
believed in high, free finger movements, espe- 
cially at first ; later the high action was reduced. 
Each of the exercises are to be taken in differ- 
ent touches — legato, marcato and staccato; 
these are for trills and five finger forms, in all 
keys. Much attention is to be given to chord 
study; the various positions both in three and 
four voices to be played in a variety of touches, 

Rafael Joseffy 245 

and always with fingers prepared beforehand 
for the keys. 

Joseffy made much of the staccato touch, 
both for fingers and wrist. Finger staccato 
was not played by simply working the fingers 
quickly up and down, but rather by a slight 
drawing-in of the finger tip (as Doctor Ma- 
son taught). Wrist staccato was executed 
with the hand, the wrist being free and supple 
and fingers rounded. He did not advise alter- 
nating legato and staccato touches for scales, 
a few repetitions of each, as is usually done ; he 
considered this method of practice a waste of 
time. But if staccato scale practice can be kept 
up for ten or fifteen minutes at a time, great 
benefit will result. 


"Joseffy was very exact in all matters of fin- 
gering. When possible, a phrase or passage 
should begin with thumb and end with fifth 
finger. An ascending scale should end with 
fifth. Chords following single tones, in bass, 
should receive, not the fifth finger again, but 
the fourth or third, when possible. I took him 
the G minor Ballade of Chopin; he changed 
the fingering in such a way that I had to learn 
the piece all over again; but it then sounded 

246 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

like quite a different composition, which shows 
how fingering can alter interpretation. 


"In regard to embellishments, he was par- 
ticular to preserve the classic spirit, of bringing 
the mordent or grace note on the beat. This 
for Haydn, Scarlatti or Mozart, and even for 
Beethoven. For later composers the modern 
manner was generally chosen, though taste 
should decide. His taste was exquisite on all 
such points. 


"One of the most valuable things about 
Joseffy's teaching was his rare insight into 
the needs of his pupils. He was able to choose 
just the musical food they required. If the 
student lacked expression and a singing tone, 
he was advised to study nocturnes or other lyric 
music ; if he needed bravoura, he was required 
to work on brilliant pieces. Sometimes he was 
allowed to play just the sort of composition 
that would bring out his best qualities in high 

"Joseffy never talked much in the lesson, 
never played the composition entirely through, 
only parts of it. The student imbibed more by 

Rafael Joseffy 247 

intuition than in any other way. He made you 
see what he meant, what the music stood for, 
its meaning and significance. If the pupil were 
not advanced sufficiently, he might get but lit- 
tle out of the lessons; but if really prepared, 
physically and mentally, he could grasp intui- 
tively, a great deal of the higher side of pian- 


Mr. Berne, who is doing excellent work as 
pianist, teacher and composer, speaks enthusi- 
astically of his lessons with Joseffy, with whom 
he studied for four or five seasons. 

"Joseffy insisted on the following four fun- 
damental principles: 1, ArchedHand; 2, Loose 
Wrist ; 3, Slanting Position ( for scales and ar- 
peggios) ; 4, High Finger Action. He was 
very particular about position of the hand; 
that had to be formed before anything else 
could be done. Accuracy also was one of his 
hobbies ; therefore fingers must be well raised 
during practice. ^/ 

" With some pupils, I am told, he did not con- 
cern himself so much about technic. He was 
very exact with me, for which I am grateful, 
as it has helped me so much in my teaching, 


248 Piano Mastery — Second Series 



"Slow practice was greatly recommended, as 
only in this way could accuracy be acquired. 
After the piece had been played for him slowly 
and carefully, he would sometimes say: 'Now 
play it fast, even if you drop some notes; I 
want to see what you can do.' j 

"He required much scale practice. At first 
we used a short scale of nine notes, for which 
it was necessary to pass the thumb under twice. 
This was played in all keys, hands singly and 
together. He claimed this little figure em- 
bodied the whole principle of the scale, without 
waste of time or energy. Later, scales in four 
octaves were studied in all keys. 


"Joseffy was a great stickler for perfect 
rhythm. He insisted this principle should be 
carried into everything. If the scale ended on 
a third beat, the following repetition, or new 
scale, must begin on the first beat of next meas- 
ure, leaving one beat between. The same was; 
true of all technical forms. 

Rafael Joseffy 249 


"With the classic in music Joseffy was in 
complete rapport. He used much Bach, also 
Haydn, Scarlatti, Mozart, Beethoven. Then 
came Schumann, Brahms and, most of all, 
Chopin. His taste did not incline toward the 
ultramodern school, though he used the two 
Arabesques of Debussy. 

"In Bach, when one voice is in eighths 
against another in sixteenths, the former was 
played staccato and the latter legato,, unless 
otherwise marked. This reading gives variety 
to the parts and preserves the classic spirit. 
Joseffy used it for the older music. 

"After the student had been initiated into 
technical methods, and had studied some pieces 
very carefully, he was told to bring several 
pieces for each lesson. Sometimes I had 
to prepare thirty or forty pages at a time — 
during the two weeks' interval; the idea being 
to play through a number of compositions for 
smoothness, style and effect. 

"At the beginning of his lessons, the student 
provided himself with a staff-ruled notebook, in 
which Joseffy indicated the technical matter to 
be studied. Many of the exercises in his new 
book, — First Lessons — were thus dictated to 

250 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

me before the work was published. This is the 
book I use in my teaching, although I have 
adopted JosefTy's method of writing down ex- 
ercises for my pupils, as it gives peculiar inter- 
est to their technical studies." 

Mr. Berne relates many incidents, showing 
the personality of the great pianist and his 
kindly interest in his pupils. Lack of space 
prevents their inclusion. The accompanying 
portrait was taken by Mr. Berne at JosefTy's 
villa at Tarrytown. 

Edwin Hughes 

Mr. Edwin Hughes, who has been for a 
number of years — as student and teacher — a 
leading representative of the pianistic princi- 
ples of Theodor Leschetizky, was a pupil of 
Joseffy for a couple of seasons before going to 
Vienna. Of the latter's teaching methods he 

"Joseffy was immensely particular about 
fingering. I have known the whole lesson hour 
to be occupied with this subject. He would fin- 
ger a passage in several ways, telling the pupil 
to practice them all and then decide which 
would best fit the hand. In his work as editor, 
he would spend many hours over the fingering 
of a single composition. He often hit upon 

Rafael Joseffy 251 

brilliant ideas in this line, though he was apt 
to be somewhat old fashioned and pedantic. 
This frequently showed itself in the chang- 
ing of fingers on keys, for no special reason. 
With him fingering was almost an art in itself. 
He worked according to a principle, and always 
put that first. If a passage ought to be played 
legato, he would preserve that principle in the 



"He advised making difficult technical exer- 
cises out of pieces ; that is to say, selecting the 
hard parts and then turning them about in dif- 
ferent ways, for one hand or the other. This 
was the idea of Tausig and Liszt, with both of 
whom Joseffy studied. It is also Rosenthal's 
plan; he doubtless got it from his teacher, 
Joseffy. Another technical stunt was to prac- 
tice with uncomfortable hand positions, such 
as octaves with very low wrist, for instance. 
Afterwards the normal position of hands, or 
written arrangement of notes would be found 
much easier. 


"He counselled the student to practice either 
for perfection or endurance. For the former 

252 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

slow practice was necessary, with well-raised 
fingers and minute attention to every detail. 
For endurance the opposite course was ob- 
served. 'Play for speed, and keep it up, no 
matter if some of the notes are dropped,' he 
would say: 'go through the piece several times 
without stopping, and do not yield to fatigue ; 
overcome fatigue !' 


"Choosing pieces from which one could learn 
a great deal, technically as well as musically, 
was almost a gift with him. Take, for instance, 
two works like the Schumann Fantaisie, Op. 
17, and Chopin's Sonata, Op. 35. To the lis- 
tener these works may sound about the same in 
point of difficulty, but the pianist will learn 
much more from the first movement of the So- 
nata than from the first part of the Fantaisie. 
For the same reason he did not favor either 
the Tschaikowsky or Grieg Concertos. 'Any 
one who can play chords can play those,' he 
would say. But from a Mozart or a Chopin 
Concerto one learns much. The Intermezzi of 
Brahms are more for interpretation than for 
technical mastery, as few technical problems 
are involved in them. 

Rafael Joseffy 253 

joseffy's books on technic 

"I make great use in my teaching of Josef - 
fy's treatise on Piano Technic; I consider it a 
great work. He has treated every point ex- 
haustively. Of course it is a book for advanced 
students, as he accepted no other kind. His 
First Lessons, which was issued later, I do not 
use. After a careful examination, I found the 
exercises just as difficult — many of them — as 
those in the larger work. He intended the 
First Lessons to precede the more advanced 
work, and started out with a few foundational 
exercises, but soon leaped ahead to advanced 
problems. He was very favorable to the Vir- 
gil clavier and to the method evolved by its 
inventor, Mr. A. K. Virgil. A pupil coming 
to him who had been well prepared in this 
method, he considered had a thorough founda- 
tion. I had been well grounded in this method 
before I went to him, through my studies with 
S. M. Fabian, of Washington. I found this 
preparation of the greatest benefit to me in my 
later studies. 

"Joseffy was one of the greatest teachers of 
our time. As Rosenthal remarked : * Why do 
Americans come over here to study, when they 
have one of the most remarkable teachers in 

254 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

their midst?' Yet Joseffy himself counselled 
his students to cross the ocean and learn what 
Europe could do for them in matters of experi- 
ence, travel, and musical inspiration." 



About the first musician with whom I came 
in contact, on my professional advent in New 
York, over twenty years ago, was Miss Kate 
Chittenden. We lived under the same roof and 
saw each other daily. I was attracted by her 
sincerity and fearless candor, her wide experi- 
ence, and the justice of her opinions on most 
subjects. As I learned to know her better and 
got beyond a certain quaint, characteristic 
brusqueness of manner, I realized how sym- 
pathetic she was, how tender-hearted, how 
ready to help struggling talent, or those not 
even talented, who craved an assisting hand. I 
saw the Synthetic Method, which she organ- 
ized and worked out, grow from its very in- 

Looking back over all these years, it seems 
to me Miss Chittenden's whole life has been one 
of devotion to her ideals. Those ideals I be- 
lieve to be: To develop the most practical 


256 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

method of piano study she could devise ; to aid 
students to find themselves and work out the 
best that is in them ; to help young teachers to 
establish themselves, — in short to 'lend a 

Kate Chittenden is an American on both 
sides of her family; her mother's people com- 
ing here in 1629, her father's in 1638. She hap- 
pened to be born in Hamilton, Canada, where 
her parents went to visit and remained. In 
music she had the benefit of study with an ex- 
traordinary Frenchman, Jules Fossier. Later, 
at Hellmuth College, London, she was trained 
by Lucy H. Clinton, a pupil of Clara Schu- 
mann, who proved to be equally exacting. 

Miss Chittenden came to New York in the 
fall of 1876. Later she was made organist and 
Choir Director of Calvary Baptist Church, a 
post she held for over a quarter of a century. 
In 1892 she joined the staff of the Metropoli- 
tan College of Music, which has since been re- 
named American Institute of Applied Music. 
She has been the Dean of the Faculty there 
since 1900. 


We conferred lately on the wide subject of 
piano teaching. I had remarked that in my 


Kate S. Chittenden 257 

experience, neither singers nor violinists, as a 
rule, could give an adequate idea in words, of 
the essentials of music study and teaching; 
whereas the progressive teacher of the piano 
is generally able to impart much that is useful 
and helpful. 

"That is because the piano is a universal in- 
strument," said Miss Chittenden. "The singer 
can only sing one note at a time, a violinist can 
at most play two; but the pianist can depress 
about a dozen keys ; the piano is the instrument 
of harmonv." 

"I was greatly interested in your exposition 
— given at the New York Music Teachers' 
Convention, held in New York in June, 1915 — 
of the use of half-tones in teaching a compre- 
hension of the material used in music. I believe 
teachers and students would appreciate a brief 
resume of your ideas." 

"I was almost forced into these discoveries," 
answered Miss Chittenden, with a smile, "by 
the utter lack of finger instinct observed in 
most pupils who came to me. I found they 
needed to feel the black keys as well as the 
white — half steps as well as whole steps. 

"We, therefore, start with the half-step, the 
smallest interval in music. At the back of the 
keyboard all keys are a half step apart. This 

258 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

very fact seems greatly to simplify matters for 
the beginner. Who would imagine that out of 
the twelve sounds contained within the octave, 
479,001,600 changes could be made! 

"We emphasize the fact that each sound is 
to be considered the starting point of an inde- 
pendent system. The first technical applica- 
tion is made by starting from each one of the 
twelve keys in the octave and proceeding by 
half steps, using such variations of time, touch, 
and dynamics as one desires. Next, we intro- 
duce a half followed by a whole step, proceed- 
ing from the same starting point, always mak- 
ing clear the relationships. Then we build 
'Filled Seconds,' utilizing three piano keys. 
With three sounds a number of rhythmic 
changes can be introduced; but in order to 
counteract the unstable influence of so much 
chromatic work, we always apply the same fig- 
ure to the diatonic scale, taking care to empha- 
size the difference between the chromatic and 
normal sequences. After the three sounds are 
established, the middle one is eliminated, bring- 
ing us to the 'sequence of whole steps' (the 
basis of so much of Liszt's filigree work) . 

"We can now take up minor thirds. I first 
use either B flat and D flat, or D sharp and F 
sharp — two mountain peaks with a valley be- 

Kate S. Chittenden 259 

tween. The pupil can never mistake either of 
these for a major third, whereas the minor third 
on the white keys is sometimes misleading. I 
have the pupil feel this minor third chromati- 
cally up the keyboard, to learn its form and 
shape. It is then written out and played with 
different touches. After these, each of the four 
sounds, or piano keys, within the minor third 
are played in succession, as 'filled minor thirds,' 
to which eight different rhythms may be ap- 

"As the model for major thirds, we use F 
sharp and A sharp — 'two mountain peaks with 
two valleys and a small hill between' — equal to 
four half steps. They may be played together 
or in broken pairs. They may also be filled 
and played with variations, rhythms and shad- 
ings. They can also be preceded by an octave. 


"In teaching chords I use the three triads in 
this order: diminished, minor, major. Inver- 
sions are demonstrated by alternate hands, 
overlapping each other. I call them "shin- 
gles." The diminished seventh and dominant 
seventh are taken up in the same way and 
are quite simple after the drill with triads. 
There is a certainty of touch and vision that 

260 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

comes from using chords chromatically and 
afterwards passing through the circle of keys, 
that results in fearlessness : it reduces the habit 
of stumbling so prevalent among immature 

"I am glad to give you this brief summary 
of the work. I think the musician should not 
keep his discoveries to himself, but be willing 
to share them with others. Musicians ought to 
have a code of ethics and as inviolable an oath 
as physicians, who are not allowed to patent 
their knowledge; for if a doctor is known to 
secrete anything of public benefit, he is scorned 
by his fellows. Surely the followers of the 
most beautiful art ought to be as high-minded 
as those in the best of professions." 

"How long will it take the student to go 
through the various half-step forms which you 
use?" she was asked. 

"About three months. Of course all depends 
on the ability of the learner and the amount of 
time she has to give. All beginners go through 
the work with my assistants. 

"In a college such as Vassar, where the ordi- 
nary studies are accompanied by a large 
amount of laboratory work, as well as a good 
deal of special-topic writing, executive music 
has to be crowded out, and it is very difficult for 

Kate S. Chittenden 261 

the students to get any satisfactory amount of 
practice. Executive music, in my judgment, 
should form no part of a college course. But 
as a side issue, for recreation and inspiration, 
it is invaluable. Nominally, the Vassar stu- 
dents are allowed one fifty-minute period of 
practice daily, but in point of fact, they are 
only able to get five half hours a week, or less. 
Consequently, I have to prune the course in 
piano just as close as possible. There is only 
time for the most essential things. I insist on 
good tone and rhythm, attention to phrasing 
and dynamics, and an intelligent use of the 
pedals. I use a large number of short pieces, 
for the less advanced pupils, such as Schumann, 
Opus 15, 99, 124; Chopin Preludes, and many 
of the best short modern compositions. My 
assistants- — I have three in the College — give 
a lesson to each music student once a week. I 
give them a half hour lesson every other week; 
the alternate week I have them in classes, six 
in number. 

"Piano music, however, has recognition at 
Vassar through the admirable course in Inter- 
pretation given by Professor George Colehian 
Gow, to performers in any branch of music. 
These classes are unique, as there are three reci- 
tations each week, and the works under consid- 

262 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

eration are treated in such a way that at the 
end of the year the students understand thor- 
oughly why the composition is good and what 
constitutes an artistic reading. They learn to 
criticize intelligently, and after the laws are 
once understood, students are called upon to 
criticize each other. This particular item is of 
peculiar benefit. A teacher may correct a fault 
over and over again, and his correction may 
have no appreciable effect; but let a fellow 
student criticize another and it makes an in- 
delible impression, — it is the end of that fault." 
Miss Chittenden numbers over three thou- 
sand pupils who have studied with her in the 
course of her long career. For nearly eighteen 
years she has been head of the piano depart- 
ment in Vassar College, making the trip to 
Poughkeepsie every week during the entire 
season. Besides this she has been, for twenty- 
five years, a lecturer on the New York Board 
of Education free lecture courses, being the 
first woman ever chosen to lecture on music. 
It has been recently said of Miss Chittenden: 
"To an exceptional degree she is open- 
minded to all the new developments in the 
music world, and it is to her capacity for com- 
prehending quickly new points of view and dis- 
criminating shrewdly between what is worth 

Kate S. Chittenden 263 

while and what is of little or no value in the evo- 
lution of pedagogical work, that her success is 
in a great measure due. She has devised a com- 
prehensive system for teaching children, which 
has produced eloquent results." 




We in America have formerly been educated 
to think that the greatest artists of the key- 
board must come from Europe. The first 
famous artist to visit and enthrall us with his 
art was Rubinstein. Each year after his ad- 
vent, some new European aspirants for our ad- 
miration visited us, so that we began to look 
for a fresh pianistic sensation every season. 

While we are grateful for all the old world 
has taught us in the past, we are learning to 
find ourselves in these days. We too have 
artists of the keyboard, who compare most 
favorably with those who come to us from over 
the water. I believe the views and experiences 
of our own pianists will be most helpful to the 
American student and teacher. 

Augusta Cottlow, who has given the follow- 
ing conference, is an artist of whom America 
may be proud ; her views will doubtless be read 
with deep interest. 


Augusta Cottlow 265 

"Prominent pianists of to-day seem to be 
fairly well agreed as to the essentials of piano 
technic — hand position, how to practice, and so 
on. Yet in the hand and mentality of the 
average individual there seem to be so many 
hindrances that it is not surprising that num- 
berless students are crying out for more light 
on these subjects. 


"Before considering the mechanical side of 
technic, it would be well to have a clear under- 
standing of what the word implies. Technic is 
the mode or means by which ideas are ex- 
pressed, and this mode of expression should be 
perfected so that the ideas may be clearly set 
forth. This is a point which ought never to be 
overlooked, but I have found that in the in- 
tense desire to perfect the 'mode of expres- 
sion,' the object of it all is too often lost sight 
of, and the student forgets what he is striving 
for. We must never forget that a great artist 
is not great simply because he has a wide range 
of tone-coloring, fine finger action, a velvety 
touch, or free and strong arm movements, but 
because he has ideas to express. Without ideas 
the most perfect technical equipment leaves the 
listener unmoved, except to excite the same 

266 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

kind of admiration called forth by a fine acro- 
batic performance. The idea is truly the 
"spirit that quickeneth' in music as well as in 
every other kind of work. Thus it is that the 
artist with great musical insight will produce 
exquisite effects with his technic, where the less 
gifted player, with the same technical develop- 
ment, can make little or no effect. It there- 
fore behooves every student to increase his in- 
terpretative ability as assiduously as he is striv- 
ing to perfect his mechanical control. 


"It seems almost superfluous to touch upon 
the subject of patience, as nearly every artist 
has, in interviews or articles, dwelt upon the 
patience required to perfect a reliable technic. 
This is, of course, true in every line of human 
endeavor. Great lessons can be learned from 
the lives of men like Edison, for example, who 
sometimes spends seventeen or eighteen hours 
without interruption in his laboratory, working 
out his experiments. For the average student, 
who loves his work, four or five hours a day at 
the piano is no bugbear, on the contrary, a de- 
cided pleasure. It is not the amount of time 
spent, however, which taxes one's patience, but 
the kind of practicing one does ; that is, whether 

Augusta Cottlow 267 

one learns a composition by repeatedly playing 
it over, or by the careful, slow, analytical 
process that goes absolutely to the foundation 
of its technical requirements. It is this 
analytical practice which tests the patience of 
those who wish to develop a fine technic, and, 
what is more important, of those who wish to 
keep this technic. Many students make the 
mistake of believing that two or three years of 
more or less analytical practice will establish 
their technic so that afterwards all will be easy 
sailing ; but doubtless all artists will agree that 
it is the continuous perfecting of each detail 
that keeps their technic up to the standard, and 
brings that enviable 'polish' which is the cher- 
ished desire of every aspirant to pianistic 


"Hand position has been a subject of much 
discussion, and the ideas regarding it have 
undergone some radical changes since piano 
playing became a fine art. At present the 
arched hand with wrist on a level with the keys 
is conceded the position of the greatest advan- 
tage for all types of hands, supple or stiff ; for 
it gives the supple hand a brace and much 
needed support for the fingers, especially in 

268 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

forte passages, while to the stiff hand with 
little back-action of the fingers it gives a kind 
of vantage ground, from which the fingers can 
fall perpendicularly into the keys. An im- 
portant point to keep in mind is to tilt the 
hand slightly towards the thumb, so that the 
knuckles of the fourth and fifth fingers are at 
least as high, if not higher, than that of the 
second finger. This position enables the fourth 
and fifth fingers to fall perpendicularly into 
the keys, and not slantingly as they would 
otherwise do. A slanting position of the 
weaker fingers often leads to the bad habit of 
shoving the fingers down by means of the 
weight of the entire hand, and prevents 
independent action and the development of 
strength in the fingers. The fingers should by 
all means preserve a rounded position and be 
struck on their tips. Whatever may be said in 
favor of the stroke produced by the straight- 
ened finger, I have never heard a crystalline, 
carrying tone from any one who used it. It 
will be noticed I have used the phrase 'into the 
keys.' This is what the finger stroke must 
always be, even in melody playing where the 
fingers are not so much rounded. It is essen- 
tial that the key be pressed down to its full 
depth at all times, in all manner of tone-color- 

Augusta Cottlow 269 

ing, even in the finest 'pianissimo, and in the 
greatest velocity ; this is almost impossible with 
flattened stroke and straightened finger. The 
mechanism of the piano action is such that a 
quick and deep stroke is essential for the per- 
fect action of the hammer against the string; 
otherwise the hammers are sluggish in their 
movement, and sometimes do not strike the 
strings at all. This is especially true in pianis- 
simo, where the pressure is so light. The 
pianissimo touch must, therefore, be carefully 
practiced, as the greatest control is required to 
produce this quick and deep stroke with 


"This wrist is one of the most important fac- 
tors in piano playing. It may be said that 
elasticity of tone depends on elasticity of wrist. 
Too little attention is paid to the wrist; it is 
often allowed to remain rigid. Is it then any 
wonder that there is stiffness in the hands and 
arms? The muscles which raise and lower the 
fingers are situated in the forearm, and are 
connected with the fingers by tendons which 
pass through the wrist. If the wrist is held 
rigid, therefore, it is easy to see what must hap- 
pen. One might say the secret of relaxation 

270 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

lies in the suppleness of the wrist. This is 
gained by the almost constant activity of this 
member — by raising the hand by means of the 
wrist at the end of each phrase, by elevating 
the wrist slightly when the thumb passes under 
the hand in arpeggios, by drawing the hand 
down into the keys in melody playing, by sink- 
ing the wrist and lifting and lowering hand 
and arm in chord playing — by leading with the 
wrist, and so on. When the wrist is lowered, 
the muscles on top of the forearm are relaxed : 
when it is raised those underneath are relieved. 
The movement should not be sideways, as is 
often done, for this accomplishes nothing and 
looks affected; it should be an up and down 
movement, in a slightly rotary manner. The 
development of strength is also assisted by this 
elasticity of wrist, for every part of the hand 
and arm is thereby unhindered in its activity. 
Thus I consider the position of hands and 
fingers, and the freedom of wrists as most 
essential points in the mechanical phase of 


"The question of how velocity is attained is 
often brought up, and many contend that 
velocity comes of its own accord as a result of 

Augusta Cottlow 271 

slow, careful practice. Velocity, in many in- 
dividuals, is a natural characteristic, owing to 
great suppleness of hands and a quick, im- 
pulsive mentality; but controlled velocity is 
quite another story. It usually requires most 
assiduous practice with the metronome, begin- 
ning with one note and increasing rhythmically 
to two, four, six and eight notes to a beat, to 
gain this control. It is not so much a lack of 
rhythmic feeling as a lack of rhythmic control 
which makes this necessary. The majority of 
students have no idea of how to increase a pas- 
sage rhythmically, and do not realize how un- 
even their technical control is. Most people 
throw up their hands in horror at the thought 
of practicing with a metronome; they are 
afraid of becoming mechanical, and so on. This 
might be the result, if one habitually played 
compositions through with metronome, but it 
should be used mostly for routine practice and 
analytical work in pieces. 


"For the student who can set aside four hours 
a day to practice, I have found that one hour 
of this time should be devoted to routine tech- 
nical practice, embracing two forms of technic, 
one for the ringers, and one for wrists and 

272 Piano Mastery — Second Series 

arms. At least twelve forms of technic should 
be gone over within a period of, at most, six 
weeks. For instance, if one practices scales 
and chords during the period of a week, em- 
ploying both in several keys and forms, the 
next week could be devoted to trills and octaves, 
also practiced in various keys, fingerings and 
forms, and so on through the other divisions of 
technic. The twelve forms which I feel should 
not be neglected, and which are essential to the 
formation of a many-sided, well-rounded tech- 
nic, are: Trills, Scales, Arpeggios (in various 
forms), Close Finger Work (triplets, broken 
thirds and the like), Octaves, Broken Octaves, 
Chords, Thirds, Fourths, Sixths, Repeated 
Notes and Skips. The principle of practicing 
the various forms of technic in routine work 
should be applied whenever these forms occur 
in compositions. This is true analytical tech- 
nic practice. 


"There is one more point I would like to touch 
upon, and that is the great evil (I can call it 
by no other name!) of students attempting to 
play compositions which tax the technic of even 
advanced concert artists. This evil cannot be 
too severely condemned. It prevents the stu- 

Augusta Cottlow 273 

dent from developing the artistic side of piano 
playing, as his thoughts are so intent upon the 
technical difficulties involved, which he finds it 
impossible to master, as they are utterly be- 
yond his present technical development. The 
argument often used by teachers on this sub- 
ject is that the student can only acquire a 
knowledge of piano literature by studying the 
greatest compositions. They are quite mis- 
taken, for one can get this knowledge by the 
thorough reading and hearing of these com- 
positions, as I know by my own experience. 

".We must always remember, as my dear old 
teacher, Carl Wolfsohn, early impressed upon 
my childish thought, that it is not WHAT we 
play, but HOW we play!" 

3 1197 00103 8253 


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